Lawmakers investigating Tillman death
SAN FRANCISCO – A congressional committee on Friday requested documents from the White House and Pentagon describing how and when the Bush administration learned the circumstances of Pat Tillman’s death.The House Oversight Committee is investigating why Tillman’s family and the public were misled about the circumstances of his death.Tillman, a San Jose native, turned down a lucrative new contract with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals to join the Army following the Sept. 11 attacks. He was killed April 22, 2004, by friendly fire in Afghanistan.Although Pentagon investigators determined quickly that he was killed by his own troops, five weeks passed before the circumstances of his death were made public. During that time, the Army claimed he was killed by enemy fire.Committee Chairman Henry Waxman wrote Friday to White House Counsel Fred Fielding requesting “all documents received or generated by any official in the Executive Office of the President” that relate to Tillman.A second letter was sent to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Gates was asked to produce all documents related to Tillman generated by his office and the Pentagon’s office of public affairs, as well as the office of Gen. John Abizaid.The committee gave the administration until May 18 to produce the documents.The committee held its first hearing on Tillman’s death earlier this week. Tillman’s family has 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 Rumsfeld.A White House spokeswoman said this week that Bush did not learn about the unusual circumstances of the Army Ranger’s death until after the soldier’s memorial service on May 3, 2004.Another spokeswoman, Jeanie Mamo, said Friday evening: “We’ve received the committee’s letter and we will review the request.”On April 29 of that year, a top general sent a memo to Abizaid, who then headed all U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia. The memo warned that it was “highly possible” that Tillman was killed by friendly fire and made clear that the information should be conveyed to the president. The White House said there is no indication that Bush received the warning.Two days later, the president mentioned Tillman in a speech to the White House correspondents dinner, but he made no reference to how he died.