Saturday, August 04, 2007

Tillman Memo Contracted Citation

Go to Original Tillman Memo Contradicted Citation
By Scott Lindlaw and Martha Mendoza
The Associated Press Friday 03 August 2007 San
Francisco - Just a day after approving a medal claiming former NFL
player Pat Tillman had been cut down by "devastating enemy fire" in
Afghanistan, a high-ranking general tried to warn President Bush that
the story might not be true, according to testimony obtained by The
Associated Press. Despite this apparent contradiction, Lt. Gen.
Stanley McChrystal was spared punishment in the latest review of
Tillman's shooting. On Tuesday, the Army overruled a Pentagon
recommendation that he be held accountable for his "misleading"
actions. In a sometimes contentious November interview under
oath and via videoconference, Pentagon investigators sharply
questioned McChrystal about the conflicting accounts, according to
the testimony obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information
Act. McChrystal acknowledged he had suspected several days
prior to approving the Silver Star citation on April 28, 2004,
that Tillman may have died by fratricide. He said that
suspicion led him to send a memo to top generals imploring "our
nation's leaders," specifically "POTUS" - the acronym for the
president - to avoid cribbing the "devastating enemy fire"
explanation from the award citation for their speeches. "Why
did you recommend the Silver Star one day and then the next day send
a secret back-channel message warning the country's leaders about
using information from the Silver Star in public speeches because
they might be embarrassed if they do?" an investigator asked
McChrystal. Despite numerous questions, the general never
directly explained the discrepancies. "That question seems to
imply the fact that we were giving the award with one hand and then
with the other hand saying it was something different," he
protested. "But that's exactly the opposite of the way I felt and
feel now." McChrystal told the investigators that he believed
Tillman deserved
the award, and that he wanted to warn top U.S. military and
political leadership that friendly fire was a
possibility. "Because I thought it was friendly fire I thought
it was important that key attendees know that that theory could
become the finding of the investigation, and if they were going to
make a statement about 'killed by enemy fire,' it might not be
certain," McChrystal said. The "secret back-channel message"
was a memo known as a P4 that McChrystal wrote on April 29, 2004, to
Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command, and to two other
generals. The P4 noted rumors that Bush and other top
officials "might include comments about Cpl. Tillman's heroism and
his approved Silver Star medal in speeches." He warned that it "might
cause public embarrassment" if the circumstances of Tillman's death
were released. In the Silver Star citation, McChrystal had
praised Tillman for placing himself "in the line of devastating enemy
Tillman's comrades who were nearby in the moments before he was
killed have testified that fellow Americans were shooting at them. A
few also have testified that the enemy may have been firing as well,
but ineffectively. No enemy bullet, rocket or mortar appeared to come
close to Tillman during his last minutes on a barren hillside in
eastern Afghanistan. McChrystal was then and remains commander
of the covert Joint Special Operations Command, the military's
clandestine "black ops" corps, which fights in the shadows of battles
in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. Among those who work with him,
McChrystal is respected and admired for his leadership and integrity.
He also has the trust of Bush, who - despite the secrecy of
McChrystal's operation - publicly praised him last year when al-Qaida
in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S.
airstrike. Attempts to reach McChrystal this week by telephone
and e-mail were unsuccessful. Ken McGraw, a
spokesman for US Special Operations Command, said in an e-mail
Friday that it would be "inappropriate" for McChrystal to comment or
speculate about the punishment decisions. McChrystal also
declined an invitation to appear Wednesday before a congressional
committee investigating the misinformation given to Tillman's family
and the American public following his friendly fire death in
Afghanistan. Tillman's parents have been critical of the
military's punishments surrounding their son's death. The Army waited
about five weeks after it suspected friendly fire was involved before
telling Tillman's family the true nature of his death.
McChrystal testified in a previous investigation that he had decided
not to tell the Tillman family of friendly fire "based on my thought
that providing incorrect information before an initial investigation
was complete was not in line with normal policies." However, Army
regulations require that families be notified when such an
investigation is under way - not when it is completed. Like
several other officers involved in the case, McChrystal testified
that he did not know about the rule. After a year-long inquiry
that ended in March, the Pentagon's acting inspector general found
that McChrystal should be held "accountable for the inaccurate and
misleading assertions" in the Silver Star award recommendation; and
for failing to notify the officials processing the award that
friendly fire was likely. "The P4 message did not request or
suggest any action to correct the information in the award
recommendation package," wrote Thomas Gimble, then the Pentagon's top
investigator. Gimble recommended that the acting Army
secretary "address and take action" against McChrystal and one
subordinate for failing "to submit an accurate Silver Star
recommendation." McChrystal was the highest-ranking of nine officers
Gimble recommended be "held accountable" for their involvement in the
aftermath of Tillman's death. But the Army cast that aside
Tuesday when it overruled the Pentagon's recommendation.
Another Army general, William Wallace, concluded McChrystal had
behaved reasonably in assuming the supporting material presented to
him for Tillman's Silver Star recommendation was accurate. The Army's
statement Tuesday made no mention of McChrystal's acknowledgment
under oath that he had known prior to approving the Silver Star that
fratricide was a strong possibility. Asked by a reporter at a
news conference Tuesday why McChrystal did not simply call Tillman's
family, Army Secretary Pete Geren said that was the job of another
chain of command run by Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., who then
led Army special operations forces. Kensinger, who has since
retired, was censured by the Army for allegedly lying to
investigators and for "a failure of leadership." -------
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