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Larry Klayman, who runs the nonprofit watchdog group Freedom Watch, has filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Pentagon, as well as the Air Force, Army and Navy. He wants a judge to order the military to turn over an array of documents under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. He said the Defense Department stonewalled his written requests, so Freedom Watch went to court last month and succeeded in forcing the government to turn over records.

For the first time, Mr. Klayman allowed The Washington Times to view the military’s investigative files turned over to family members two years ago.

“The families of our fallen heroes, who I am proud to represent, need closure to this tragedy,” Mr. Klayman said. “There are many unanswered questions and the military’s explanations of the causes of the crash do not add up.”

He said families also want changes to the military’s restrictive rules of engagement that made it more difficult for U.S. helicopter pilots to fire back at the Taliban fighters they believed brought down the Chinook.

“The families also want our military’s rules of engagement to be changed, as a testament to and in honor of their dead sons,” Mr. Klayman said. “When our nation enters into battle, it must be to win the battle, not the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Islamic jihadist enemy and the Muslim civilian population it uses as human shields.”

He also wants to know the identities of Afghan soldiers onboard, and why the aircraft’s black box, washed away in a fierce rainstorm, was never found — even though it has a homing device.

“We want to make sure our fallen heroes are respected and that answers are provided,” he said.

About an possible insider betrayal, he says: “We’re not saying that happened, but it needs to be explored because increasingly Americans are being killed at the hands of Afghans.”

Even some military personnel involved that night questioned the operations afterward.

The navigator aboard the AC-130 gunship that loitered for three hours over Tangi Valley expressed in 2011 what the families are thinking today.

“One of the other things that we did talk about — kind of what you’re hitting on, sir, is about the fact that, you know, for three hours we had been burning holes in the sky,” the officer told Gen. Colt’s team. “You’ve got [Apaches] flying around, so there’s a lot of noise going on and, basically, this entire valley knows that there’s something happening in this area. So, to do an infil on the X or Y, you know, having that element of surprise in the beginning of an operation is good, but by the time we’ve been there for three hours, and the party’s up, bringing in another aircraft like that, you know, may not be the most tactically sound decision.”

The mission

After Gen. Colt’s report became public in September 2011, the military arranged for him to brief next of kin Oct. 12 in Little Creek, Va., home to Naval Special Warfare Development Group, popularly called SEAL Team 6. The crash took the lives of 17 SEALs and five special warfare development group operators, making it the worst one-day loss in the history of U.S. naval special operations.

The chopper’s manifest included five Army soldiers, three Air Force airmen, seven Afghan soldiers and one Afghan interpreter. All 38 died. Twenty-two of them, such as Petty Officer Strange, were thrown from the aircraft. The rest died inside the fireball.

The military morgue at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware reported that all succumbed within seconds. Gen. Colt said they were “most likely rapid fatalities.”

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