Tillman document request denied by White House
WASHINGTON – The White House has refused to give Congress documents about the death of former NFL player Pat Tillman, with White House counsel Fred Fielding saying that certain papers relating to discussion of the friendly-fire shooting “implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests.”
Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Tom Davis, R-Va., the leading members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, objected to the refusal Friday in letters to the White House and the Defense Department.
White House and Pentagon officials have turned over about 10,000 pages of material, but Waxman and Davis said those papers lack critical documents that would show communications between senior administration officials and top military officers shortly after Tillman was killed in Afghanistan in 2004.
Tillman’s celebrity, as one who gave up a professional football contract to join the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, made his death major news. The military at first concocted a heroic story about how Tillman, a specialist posthumously promoted to corporal, had been killed in a fierce firefight with the enemy, despite obvious evidence that he had been shot by his own men at close range. More than a month later, a military investigation reported publicly that the death was not linked to enemy fire.
“The main focus of the committee’s investigation is to examine what the White House and the leadership of the Department of Defense knew about Corporal Tillman’s death and when they knew it,” Waxman and Davis wrote in a letter to Fielding. “Unfortunately, the document production from the White House sheds virtually no light on these matters.”
After an oversight hearing in April – during which Tillman’s family members testified – the committee sought the documents to learn about the alleged cover-up and high-level discussions about how to spin the case. Waxman and Davis plan another hearing on Aug. 1.
Tillman’s family and others have said they believe the erroneous information peddled by the Pentagon was part of a deliberate cover-up that may have reached all the way to President Bush and then-Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.