By Bob Cusack - 02/21/14 09:37 PM EST
A congressional panel on Thursday will hold a hearing on a mysterious helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed members of the Navy's elite SEAL Team 6 unit.
Many questions about the Aug. 6, 2011 attack, which killed 30 Americans, will be asked during the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on National Security.
The 30 Americans were killed three months after Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by Team 6 forces. The timing has sparked speculation that the attack was payback for the bin Laden raid.
In all, 38 died when Afghan militants shot down a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. Twenty-two Navy SEALs perished, along with seven Afghan soldiers and an Afghan translator. The U.S. forces were on a rescue mission called Extortion 17.
The 38 bodies were recovered, but the chopper's black box wasn't. Department of Defense (DOD) officials claim it couldn't be recovered because of a flash flood that occurred after the assault. All 38 bodies were cremated.
Pentagon officials have defended the cremations to the soldiers' families, saying the bodies were badly burned. Chaffetz has said he has seen a photo of a deceased SEAL that was not.
Chaffetz said the Pentagon will be asked about the flash flood assertion and the cremations. He stressed that "we're not out to embarrass the Pentagon or the administration." He said the victims' families deserve answers to many outstanding questions.
Some of the victims' family members want to testify, but Chaffetz indicated that is unlikely. He said a Pentagon official will probably be the only witness, though it's unclear at this time which DOD employee will appear before the House panel.