Hearing on Tillman, Lynch Incidents: What Was Known

April 24, 2007
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is continuing its hearing entitled "Misleading Information from the Battlefield." The hearing is focusing on the death of Army Ranger Specialist Patrick Tillman in Afghanistan and the capture and rescue of Army Private Jessica Lynch in Iraq. One line of questioning has pertained to when senior military and White House officials were made aware of the probability that Army Ranger Specialist Patrick Tillman was killed by friendly fire. Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD-07) delved into this subject by referencing a memo described in an AP story dated March 31, 2007:

In the memo sent to a superior officer seven days after Tillman's death, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that the evidence strongly pointed to friendly fire and the nation's leaders risked embarrassing themselves if they publicly said otherwise.

"I felt that it was essential that you received this information as soon as we detected it in order to preclude any unknowing statements by our country's leaders which might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Cpl. Tillman's death become public," McChrystal wrote.

Rep. Elijah Cummings:

"This P4 memo was sent by General McChrystal, who was your brother's regiment commander in Afghanistan to three high-ranking generals including General Kensinger, the head of special operations, and General Abizaid, the head of Central Command. The P4 memo warns, and I quote, "It is highly possible that Corporal Tillman was killed by friendly fire." End of quote. And it seems to be responding to inquiries from the White House..."

But Rep. Danny Davis (IL-07) picks up this line of questioning. He notes that the same General Kensinger attended a widely publicizied memorial service with speeches from military officers echoing the false account of the death, several days after this memo was addressed to him, and at a time when the Tillman family was still unaware of the truth of the circumstances of his death. General Kensinger did not correct the record even in this time of mourning, and Rep. Davis reveals that General Kensinger refused to testify at this hearing, citing the 5th Amendment:

Rep. Danny Davis:

"But he didn't tell you anything about this, he didn't correct what was said at the ceremony. We had wanted to ask the General about his actions at our hearing today, but he has refused to testify. Last week his attorney sent a letter to the committee invoking his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination."