TruthOut.org & Richard Larnder & Erica Werner / Associated Press – 2007-07-31 22:33:29
Was Tillman Murdered?
Associated Press via Truthout
SAN FRANCISCO (July 31, 2007) — Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman’s forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player’s death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
“The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described,” a doctor who examined Tillman’s body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.
The doctors — whose names were blacked out — said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.
Ultimately, the Pentagon did conduct a criminal investigation, and asked Tillman’s comrades whether he was disliked by his men and whether they had any reason to believe he was deliberately killed. The Pentagon eventually ruled that Tillman’s death at the hands of his comrades was a friendly-fire accident.
The medical examiners’ suspicions were outlined in 2,300 pages of testimony released to the AP this week by the Defense Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Among other information contained in the documents:
In his last words moments before he was killed, Tillman snapped at a panicky comrade under fire to shut up and stop “sniveling.”
• Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.
• The three-star general who kept the truth about Tillman’s death from his family and the public told investigators some 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn’t recall details of his actions.
• No evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene — no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck.
The Pentagon and the Bush administration have been criticized in recent months for lying about the circumstances of Tillman’s death. The military initially told the public and the Tillman family that he had been killed by enemy fire. Only weeks later did the Pentagon acknowledge he was gunned down by fellow Rangers.
With questions lingering about how high in the Bush administration the deception reached, Congress is preparing for yet another hearing next week.
The Pentagon is separately preparing a new round of punishments, including a stinging demotion of retired Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., 60, according to military officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the punishments under consideration have not been made public.
In more than four hours of questioning by the Pentagon inspector general’s office in December 2006, Kensinger repeatedly contradicted other officers’ testimony, and sometimes his own. He said on some 70 occasions that he did not recall something.
At one point, he said: “You’ve got me really scared about my brain right now. I’m really having a problem.”
Tillman’s mother, Mary Tillman, who has long suggested that her son was deliberately killed by his comrades, said she is still looking for answers and looks forward to the congressional hearings next week.
“Nothing is going to bring Pat back. It’s about justice for Pat and justice for other soldiers. The nation has been deceived,” she said.
The documents show that a doctor who autopsied Tillman’s body was suspicious of the three gunshot wounds to the forehead. The doctor said he took the unusual step of calling the Army’s Human Resources Command and was rebuffed. He then asked an official at the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division if the CID would consider opening a criminal case.
“He said he talked to his higher headquarters and they had said no,” the doctor testified.
Also according to the documents, investigators pressed officers and soldiers on a question Mrs. Tillman has been asking all along.
“Have you, at any time since this incident occurred back on April 22, 2004, have you ever received any information even rumor that Cpl. Tillman was killed by anybody within his own unit intentionally?” an investigator asked then-Capt. Richard Scott.
Scott, and others who were asked, said they were certain the shooting was accidental.
Investigators also asked soldiers and commanders whether Tillman was disliked, whether anyone was jealous of his celebrity, or if he was considered arrogant. They said Tillman was respected, admired and well-liked.
Retired General Censured in Tillman Case
Richard Larnder & Erica Werner / Associated Press
WASHINGTON (July 31, 2007) — The Army censured a retired three-star general Tuesday for a “perfect storm of mistakes, misjudgments and a failure of leadership” after the 2004 friendly-fire death in Afghanistan of Army Ranger Pat Tillman.
Army Secretary Pete Geren asked a military review panel to decide whether Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger, who led Army special operation forces after the Sept. 11 attacks, should also have his rank reduced.
In a stinging rebuke, Geren said Kensinger “failed to provide proper leadership to the soldiers under his administrative control” when the Army Ranger and former pro football star was killed in 2004.
Geren said that while Kensinger was “guilty of deception” in misleading investigators, there was no intentional Pentagon cover-up of circumstances surrounding Tillman’s death – at first categorized by the military as being from enemy fire.
“He let his soldiers down,” Geren said at Pentagon news conference. “General Kensinger was the captain of that ship, and his ship ran aground.”
Geren said he has directed a review panel of four-star generals to decide whether Kensinger, a three-star, should have his rank reduced. If Kensinger is demoted to major general, his monthly retirement pay of $9,400 would be cut by about $900, according to Army officials.
“Had he performed his job properly, had he performed his duty, we wouldn’t be standing here today,” Geren said.
Kensinger, who retired in February 2006, received a letter of censure from Geren that said he “subverted the trust” that had been placed in him and “caused lasting damage to the reputation and credibility of the U.S. Army.”
Geren said he considered recommending a court-martial for Kensinger but ruled it out.
Kensinger, whose line of authority included the Army Rangers, also failed to properly notify the Tillman family a fratricide investigation had begun shortly after he was killed, did not initiate a required safety investigation.
Kensinger’s lawyer, Charles W. Gittins, said in an e-mail message to The Associated Press on Tuesday night that his client “had no reason to lie” and had told investigators “everything he knows” about the case. In May, in a rebuttal letter to the general who reviewed the matter, Kensinger firmly rejected all accusations that he had lied.
Gittins also dismissed accusations that Kensinger should have told the Tillman family about the possibility of friendly fire, saying the retired general “was not the release authority for the information.” That “release authority,” Gittins said, was Gen. John Abizaid, then the head of Central Command.
Kensinger, a 1970 West Point graduate, was the top officer at Army Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, N.C., from August 2002 through December 2005.
Geren’s actions fail to end a three-year controversy that has damaged the ground service’s image. Even as the Army’s top civilian was telling reporters he did not know exactly when he’d receive a recommendation from the review board on Kensinger’s rank, members of Congress were already judging whether the Army had gone far enough.
Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Mike Honda, both Democrats from Tillman’s home state of California, said there still too many unanswered questions.
“We still don’t know the full story about the way the Pentagon and this administration managed this tragedy,” Boxer said in a statement. “In my view, the Army should reconsider today’s announcement and instead move forward with harsher penalties.”
In a separate statement, Honda called Geren’s actions “necessary and long overdue” but added “they do nothing to lift the appearance of cover-up that continues to envelop the Pat Tillman story.”
On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is holding a hearing meant to help the panel determine who in the Pentagon knew what – and when.
Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is scheduled to testify, said committee spokeswoman Karen Lightfoot. The panel issued a subpoena Monday night for testimony from Kensinger, according to Lightfoot, who said the subpoena is in the hands of U.S. marshals who were trying to deliver it in advance of Wednesday’s hearing.
Gittins said Kensinger was away on business travel. In his testimony in December, Kensinger said he is a consultant for four firms.
Kensinger “declined the committee invitation to testify two weeks ago, so it was no surprise to the committee that he had no intent to participate in a hearing that is all about show and no substance,” Gittins said without elaboration.
The punishment of Kensinger stands in contrast to the light touch given other senior officers who were involved in a litany of mistakes that came after members of Tillman’s units accidentally killed him in the early evening hours of April 22, 2004.
Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who oversees the military’s most sensitive counterterrorism operations, received no punishment. McChrystal has been cited for passing on misleading information that led to a Silver Star award to Tillman.
Brig. Gen. James Nixon, Tillman’s former regimental commander, was issued a “memorandum of concern” for his “well-intentioned but fundamentally incorrect decision” to keep information about Tillman’s death limited to just his staff. Nixon is now a top official at U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla.
Geren said that investigations have conclusively shown that accidental fire from U.S. troops was responsible for the death in Afghanistan of Tillman, who had walked away from a $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to become an Army Ranger.
The Army initially suggested that Tillman, 27, had been killed in a firefight with enemy militia forces. The Army then arranged a ceremony to award Tillman a Silver Star for bravery.
Five weeks after his death, the Army notified the Tillman family that Tillman died from rounds fired in error by U.S. troops.
Geren cited “multiple actions on the part of multiple soldiers” in compounding the confusion that surrounded the death.
But there “was never any effort to mislead or hide” or keep embarrassing information from the public, Geren said.
He said Tillman deserved the Silver Star, the military’s third- highest award for valor in combat, despite the circumstances surrounding his death.
He could understand how the Tillman family and other Americans might reach the conclusion that there was a cover-up, Geren said.
“The facts just don’t support this conclusion,” he said. “There was no cover-up.”
But he said, “We have made mistakes over and over and over, an incredible number of mistakes in handling this. We have destroyed our credibility in their eyes as well as in the eyes of others.”
Tillman’s family has insisted there was a cover-up that went as high as Rumsfeld. Geren was asked whether there was any indication Rumsfeld was aware that Tillman’s death was by friendly fire before that information was made public. “I have no knowledge of any evidence to that end,” Geren replied.
Aside from his decision to censure Kensinger, Geren said that he was accepting recommendations by Gen. William Wallace, who the Army secretary tasked to review a March report by the Pentagon inspector general into Tillman’s death.
Based on Wallace’s findings, Nixon and three other officers received a memorandum of concern. The others are:
-Retired Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, who led one of the early Army investigations. Jones was criticized for incorrectly characterizing Tillman’s actions in describing why he should be awarded a Silver Star.
-Brig. Gen. Gina Farrisee, director of military personnel management at the Pentagon, for failing to ensure that the concerns of a medical examiner were properly resolved.
-Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey, Tillman’s battalion commander, for his handling of the punishment against the rangers involved in the shooting of Tillman.
Three other officers also received punishments but because they were below the rank of general officer, the Army did not release their names.
Associated Press writer Scott Lindlaw contributed to this report from San Francisco.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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