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Second Oversight Hearing on the Tillman Fratricide

Posted on by Jesse Lee

The Oversight Committee is currently holding a hearing, “The Tillman Fratricide: What the Leadership of the Defense Department Knew.” The hearing is part of an ongoing investigation and follows a previous hearing held in April. Witnesses will include former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Former Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. John P. Abizaid (Retired), Former Chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers (Retired), Former Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Gen. Bryan Douglas Brown (Retired), and Former Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger, Jr. (Retired). [UPDATE: Gen. Kensinger has been served with a subpoena, but has not been able to be located over the past several days and will not appear.]

Watch the hearing live via committee webcast or on C Span 3.

Chairman Waxman gives opening remarks:

Chairman Waxman: “Much of our focus will be on a ‘Personal For’ message, also known as a ‘P4,’ that Major General Stanley McChrystal sent on April 29, 2004. This P4 alerted his superiors that despite press reports that Corporal Tillman died fighting the enemy, it was ‘highly possible that Corporal Tillman was killed by friendly fire.’ Three officers received this P4 report: Lt. General Kensinger, General Abizaid, and General Brown… The Committee did issue a subpoena to General Kensinger earlier this week, but U.S. Marshals have been unable to locate or serve him.”

Chairman Waxman questions the witnesses on the basics of whether and when they found out about the P4 memo:

Chairman Waxman:
“General McChrystal explained why this P4 message was so important, he stated: ‘I felt it was essential that you receive this information as soon as we detected it in order to preclude any unknowing statement by our country’s leaders which might cause embarrassment if the circumstances of Corporal Tillman’s death became public.’… This was four days before the memorial service at which the Tillmans and the nation were told Pat Tillman was killed by hostile fire.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney questions witnesses:

Rep. Maloney: “At that point you knew, and I assume many people knew, that there was a possibility that he died by friendly fire, and yet that was not disclosed until a full month afterwards. The family testified they would have wanted to hear the truth, and if there was a possibility, they would have wanted to hear the possibilities… yet in this you sat on your hands and you didn’t say anything about it, and I find that hard to understand.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings questions witnesses on a chart showing dozens of individuals who knew the truth before it became public:

Rep. Cummings: “This chart identifies Pentagon officials who knew of the fratricide before the American public and the Tillman family at the end of May, 2004. This chart shows that at least 30 people knew, including some of the highest ranking military officials in our government. But even this is not comprehensive. The committee interviewed Lt. General John Craddock on July 27, and in 2004 he was your senior military assistant… He told us that he didn’t learn of the fratricide in any official capacity, but rather from his neighbor Lt. General Jim Lovelace, who was the director of the Army staff… If it was common knowledge among the top military ranks, Secretary Rumsfeld, something that was talked about the backyard fences, how is it possible that you didn’t know?”

Rep. Paul Hodes questions Secretary Rumsfeld about parallels between this investigation and the investigations of Abu Ghraib and other scandals:

Rep. Hodes: “Do you see why some would think, in the case of both Abu Ghraib and the Tillman situation, there were deliberate efforts to avoid accountability? And if you see that the manner in which this serial kind of narrow investigating, never answering the kind of questions about who at the top knew what is a problem, what do you think ought to be done so the American people can be assured that the top leadership in this country is accountable, is willing to come forward and tell the truth, and is going to take the actions to reassure the American public that abuses won’t happen again?”
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