THE TILLMAN FRATRICIDE: WHAT THE LEADERSHIP OF THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT KNEW
[House Hearing, 110 Congress]
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Table of Contents:
THE TILLMAN FRATRICIDE: WHAT THE LEADERSHIP OF THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:06 a.m., in room 2154, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Henry A. Waxman (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Waxman, Maloney, Cummings, Kucinich, Davis of Illinois, Tierney, Clay, Watson, Lynch, Yarmuth, Braley, Norton, Cooper, Van Hollen, Hodes, Sarbanes, Welch, Davis of Virginia, Burton, Shays, McHugh, Mica, Platts, Duncan, Turner, Issa, McHenry, Bilbray and Sali.
Staff present: Phil Schiliro, chief of staff; Phil Barnett, staff director and chief counsel; Kristin Amerling, general counsel; Karen Lightfoot, communications director and senior policy advisor; David Rapallo, chief investigative counsel; John Williams, deputy chief investigative counsel; David Leviss, senior investigative counsel; Suzanne Renaud and Steve Glickman, counsels; Earley Green, chief clerk; Teresa Coufal, deputy clerk; Matt Siegler, special assistant; Caren Auchman, press assistant; Zhongrui "JR'' Deng, chief information officer; Leneal Scott, information systems manager; Will Ragland, staff assistant; Bonney Kapp, fellow; David Marin, minority staff director; Larry Halloran, minority deputy staff director; Jennifer Safavian, minority chief counsel for oversight and investigations; Keith Ausbrook, minority general counsel; Steve Castor and A. Brooke Bennett, minority counsels; Susie Schulte, minority senior professional staff member; Christopher Bright and Allyson Glandford, minority professional staff members; Nick Palarino, minority senior investigator and policy advisor; Patrick Lyden, minority parliamentarian and member services coordinator; Brian McNicoll, minority communications director; Benjamin Chance, minority clerk; and Ali Ahmad, minority deputy press secretary.
Chairman Waxman. I want to welcome everyone to our hearing today. I do want to announce this is a hearing of Congress, and not a rally or a demonstration. Please keep that in mind.
As of last night, 4,063 of our bravest soldiers have died in the Afghan and Iraq wars. Each death has its own compelling story. Each brought incalculable grief for the soldier's family and friends, and each is a tragic and irreplaceable loss for our country.
In today's hearing we will continue our investigation of the misinformation surrounding the death of one of those soldiers, Corporal Pat Tillman. We are focused on Corporal Tillman's case because the misinformation was so profound and because it persisted so long. And if that can happen to the most famous soldier serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, it leaves many families and many of us questioning the accuracy of the information from many other casualties.
To date there have been seven investigations into Corporal Tillman's case, yet the Army announced sanctions against -- yesterday the Army announced sanctions against six officers, while important questions still remain unanswered. Normally in investigations we learn more, and the more we learn, the easier it is to understand what actually happened. The opposite is true in the Tillman case. As we learn more, everything that happened in 2004, from April 22nd, the day Pat Tillman died, to May 29th, the day the Defense Department finally announced this was a friendly fire incident, makes less sense.
One possible explanation is that a series of counterintuitive, illogical blunders unfolded, accidentally and haphazardly. As the Army noted yesterday, in seven investigations into this tragedy, not one has found evidence of a conspiracy by the Army to fabricate a hero, to deceive the public or mislead the Tillman family about the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death.
The other possible explanation is that someone or some group of officials acted deliberately and repeatedly to conceal the truth. Kevin Tillman, who served with his brother in Afghanistan, expressed that view in our last hearing. He said April 2004 was turning into the deadliest month to date in the war in Iraq. American commanders essentially surrendered Fallujah to members of the Iraq resistance. In the midst of this, the White House learned that Christian Parenti, Seymour Hersh, and other journalists were about to reveal a shocking scandal involving massive and systemic detainee abuse in a facility known as Abu Ghraib. Revealing that Pat's death was fratricide would have been yet another political disaster during a month already swollen with political disasters, and a brutal truth that the American public would undoubtedly find unacceptable. So the facts needed to be suppressed, and an alternate narrative had to be constructed. This freshly manufactured narrative was then distributed to the American public, and we believe the strategy had the intended effect. It shifted the focus from the grotesque torture at Abu Ghraib to a great American who died a hero's death.
Well, that was the view of Kevin Tillman. Our committee's challenge is to determine which explanation is true. At our last hearing, Specialist Bryan O'Neal testified. Specialist O'Neal was standing next to Corporal Tillman during the firefight. He knew immediately that this was a case of friendly fire, and described what happened in an eyewitness statement he submitted up his chain of command immediately after Corporal Tillman's death.
But Specialist O'Neal told us something else. After he submitted his statement, someone else rewrote it. This unnamed person made significant changes that transformed O'Neal's account into an enemy attack. We still don't know who did that and why he did it. We just know that although everyone on the ground knew this was a case of friendly fire, the American people and Tillman family were told that Corporal Tillman was killed by the enemy, and that doesn't make any sense.
Our focus has been to look up the chain of command, but that has proved to be as confounding as figuring out what happened to Specialist O'Neal's witness statement. We have tried to find out what the White House knew about Corporal Tillman's death. We know that in the days following the initial report, at least 97 White House officials sent and received hundreds of e-mails about Corporal Tillman's death and how the White House and the President should respond. Now, there is nothing sinister about this.
I want that sign down.
There is nothing sinister about this, and there is nothing sinister in the e-mails we have received. Corporal Tillman is a national hero. It makes sense that White House officials would be paying attention. But what doesn't make sense is that weeks later, in the days before and after the Defense Department announced that Corporal Tillman was actually killed by our own forces, there are no e-mails from any of the 97 White House officials about how Corporal Tillman really died.
The concealment of Corporal Tillman's fratricide caused millions of Americans to question the integrity of our government, yet no one will tell us when and how the White House learned the truth.
Today we will be examining the actions of the senior leadership at the Department of Defense. Much of our focus will be on a "Personal For'' message, also known as a P-4, that Major General Stanley McChrystal sent on April 29, 2004. This P-4 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.
Well, three officers received this P-4 report: Lieutenant General Kensinger, General Abizaid and General Brown. General Kensinger refused to appear today. His attorney informed the committee that General Kensinger would not testify voluntarily, and, if issued a subpoena, would seek to evade service.
The committee did issue a subpoena to General Kensinger earlier this week, but U.S. Marshals have been unable to locate or serve him. So we will not be able to ask General Kensinger what he did with the P-4. We won't be able to ask him why he didn't notify the Tillman family about the friendly fire investigation, and we won't be able to ask him why he did nothing to correct the record after he attended Corporal Tillman's memorial service in early May and he heard statements he knew were false.
Fortunately, we do have the other two recipients of the P- 4, General Abizaid and General Brown, here this morning, and we will ask them what they did after they received General McChrystal's message.
We are also grateful that General Myers and Secretary Rumsfeld, who rearranged his schedule so that he could be here today, are here to testify. And we are pleased that you have taken this opportunity to be with us.
Members of the committee, like Americans across the Nation, are looking for answers to simple questions. Who knew about the friendly fire attack? Why wasn't the family told? Why did it take over a month for the leadership of the Defense Department to tell the public the truth? Today I hope we will at least get answers to these questions and bring clarity to this investigation.
I commend the Army for its continued investigation into the Tillman case, and Army Secretary Geren for the forthright approach he is taking. Progress has been made, but we still don't know who was responsible for the false information and what roles, if any, the Defense Department and the White House had in the deceptions. We owe it to the Tillman family and to the American people to get the answers to these fundamental questions.
Chairman Waxman. I want to now recognize Mr. Davis before we call on our witnesses.Mr. Davis of Virginia. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We continue to join you today in pursuing key aspects of this investigation, because our duty to the Nation's honored dead and to their families is solemn and absolute. As a Nation and as a Congress, we owe them our unity, our honesty and our industry, untarnished by self-interest or partisanship. As long as the committee is seeking authoritative answers to necessary questions about the death of Corporal Pat Tillman, we will be constructive partners in that effort.
This much we know. There are no good answers to the necessarily tough questions raised about how the facts of this friendly fire incident were handled, by whom and when. Testimony from our previous hearing and the results of six separate Army investigations all showed the tragic truth can only fall somewhere between screw-up and cover-up, between rampant incompetence and elaborate conspiracy. And once you are descending that continuum, it almost doesn't matter whether the failure to follow Army regulations about updated casualty reports and prompt family notifications was inadvertent, negligent or intentional.
As it has been observed, sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice, and the facts uncovered so far clearly prove this was advanced incompetence, serial ineptitude up and down the Army and civilian chains of command.
Still, confounding questions persist about how and why the specifics of so high profile a death were so slowly and badly conveyed, even after top Pentagon leaders and the White House were known to be interested.
Since this committee's first hearing on these issues 4 months ago, the committee has received over 13,000 pages of documents from the White House, the Department of Defense, the Inspector General of the Department of Defense, and the Department of the Army. Committee staff has conducted over a half dozen interviews with those involved. Nothing in that material suggests the Defense Secretary or the White House were aware Tillman's death was a friendly fire incident before late May, when his grieving family and the rest of the Nation were finally told. But it is still not clear how or why the Secretary, other defense leaders, and the White House speechwriters remained impervious to the emerging truth while so many others knew Corporal Tillman's death was a fratricide.
Yesterday another Army review by General William S. Wallace was conducted, and the secretary of the Army imposed disciplinary action against senior officers involved in this sad cascade of mistakes, misjudgments, and misleading statements. Consistent with the Pentagon Inspector General's report, General Wallace found no evidence anyone in the chain of command acted intentionally to cover up the fact Corporal Tillman had died by friendly fire. Rather, the report determined, as had others before, the delay in notifying the Tillman family of the friendly fire investigation resulted from well-intentioned but clearly wrong decisions to wait until all investigations were complete. That, to me, is one of the more troubling aspects in this case, that the default setting for Army officers, lawyers, and others was secrecy.
This was their first friendly fire incident. No one apparently bothered to read the regulations requiring immediate changes to the casualty report, which in turn would have triggered additional information going to the family, and presumably others. Yesterday the Army Secretary said timely and accurate family notification is a duty based on core Army values. But in this instance, undeniably pernicious institutional forces devalued that ideal. Why? What has been done to cure that organizational bias against the diligence and candor owed the Tillman family and every American?
I believe the job of this committee is to ask the tough questions and let the chips fall where they may. It is our not always envious job to root out the facts and hold people accountable. That is what we are doing today. As I noted earlier, nothing in our inquiry thus far demonstrates the Defense Secretary or the White House were aware this a was a friendly fire incident before late May. That we have not learned otherwise may perplex those who are assuming the worst, given the gross mishandling of this tragedy. But while we continue to gather information and we together will leave no stone unturned, let's not let these assumptions color or cloud what our investigation is actually finding.
All our witnesses have served our Nation with distinction, and we are grateful for their continued service and support of this committee's oversight. I am particularly glad former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld decided to appear today. His perspective is an indispensable element of our efforts to complete this inquiry. We look forward to his testimony and that of all today's witnesses as we seek answers to these painful, but essential questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Waxman. Thank you very much, Mr. Davis.
Chairman Waxman. Let me, before I recognize our witnesses, remind everyone in the audience that this is a serious congressional investigation. If anyone holds up signs, we want to tell them not do it. And if they do, we will ask them to excuse themselves from the hearing room. We will insist on proper decorum.
I join with Mr. Davis in thanking each of our witnesses for being here today, and certainly in the case of Secretary Rumsfeld, who went to great pains to be here. And I appreciate the fact that he did come. And also to all three of the generals that are with us today, we want to hear from you.
It is the practice of this committee for all witnesses that we administer the oath, and I would like to ask all of you to please stand at this time to take the oath.
Chairman Waxman. The record will reflect that each of the witnesses answered in the affirmative.
Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Secretary Rumsfeld, why don't we start with you. There is a button on the base of the mike. We would like if you would make your presentation. If any of you have submitted written testimony, the written testimony will be in the record in full. And we want to hear what you have to say.
STATEMENT OF DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
First, I want to again extend my deepest sympathies to the Tillman family. Corporal Tillman's death, and the deaths of thousands of men and women who have given their lives in our Nation's service, have brought great sorrow to the lives of their families and their loved ones. Theirs is a grief felt by all who have had the privilege of serving alongside those in uniform. The handling of the circumstances surrounding Corporal Tillman's death could only have added to the pain of losing a loved one. I personally, and I am sure all connected with the Department, extend our deep regrets.
One of the Department of Defense's foremost responsibilities is to tell the truth to some of the 3 million military, civilian and contract employees who dedicate their careers to defending our Nation; to the military families who endure the extended absence of their fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters; and to the American people, for whom all of those connected to the Department of Defense strive each day to protect.
In March 2002, early in my tenure as Secretary of Defense, I wrote a memo for the men and women of the Department of Defense titled "Principles for the Department of Defense.'' I have attached a copy of that memo to my testimony. You will note that principle No. 1, the very first, addresses the points that both you and Mr. Davis have made. It says, "Do nothing that could raise questions about the credibility of DOD. Department officials must tell the truth and must be believed to be telling the truth or our important work is undermined.''
Mr. Chairman, in your invitation to today's hearing, you asked that we be prepared to discuss how we learned of the circumstances surrounding Corporal Tillman's death, when we learned of it, and with whom we discussed it. I am prepared to respond to the questions which pertain to these matters to the best of my ability.
In December 2006, I sent a letter to the Acting Inspector General of the Department of Defense, Mr. Thomas Gimble, describing my best recollection of those events, which by that point had occurred some 2-1/2 years previously. The committee has been given a copy of that letter, and I would like to quote a portion of it. "I am told that I received word of this development sometime after May 20, 2004, but my recollection reflects the fact that it occurred well over 2 years ago. As a result, I do not recall when I first learned about the possibility that Corporal Tillman's death might have resulted from fratricide.'' I went on to say, "I am confident that I did not discuss this matter with anyone outside of the Department of Defense.'' Obviously, during that early period; I have subsequently to that period.
What I wrote in December 2006 remains my best recollection today of when I was informed and with whom I talked before May 20th. I understand that the May 20, 2004, date was shortly before the Tillman family was informed of the circumstances on May 26, 2004.
Your invitation to appear before the committee also asked about my knowledge of a "Personal For'' or P-4 message dated April 29, 2004. That message was not addressed to me. I don't recall seeing it until recent days, when copies have been made available. There are a great many, indeed many thousands, of communications throughout the Department of Defense that a Secretary of Defense does not see.
I understand that the Acting Inspector General's report concluded that there were errors among some of those responsible for the initial reports. Any errors in such a situation are most unfortunate. The Tillmans were owed the truth, delivered in a forthright and timely manner. And certainly the truth was owed to the memory of a man whose valor, dedication, and sacrifice to his country remains an example for all.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Waxman. Thank you very much, Mr. Rumsfeld.
Chairman Waxman. General Myers.
And I would like -- as the Secretary said, I would like to also add my condolences, of course, to all those who have sacrificed to keep us free, the men and women in uniform.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Waxman. General Abizaid.
General Abizaid. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Certainly we have lost a lot of good young men and women in the past several years of combat. We have a tough fight ahead of us, and we will lose more. I understand that one of the most important things we can do is help our families through the grieving process. That requires accurate and timely information that goes to them, and it certainly didn't happen in the case of Corporal Tillman.
It is unfortunate that we did not handle it properly. Having had a son-in-law who was wounded in combat, and having gone through the notification process myself, I can only tell you it is a difficult process in the best of times.
We will answer your questions to the best of our ability. Thanks.
Chairman Waxman. Thank you.
So I am ready for your questions, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Waxman. OK. Thank you.
Well, I want to begin the questioning by framing the issue for us. The basic point that we want to learn is what did the senior military leadership know about Corporal Tillman's death, when did they know it, and what did they do after they learned it?
At our last hearing we reviewed a document known as Personal For, or a P-4 memo. This memo was sent on April 28, 2004, by Major General Stanley McChrystal, the Commander of the Joint Task Force in Afghanistan, where Corporal Tillman was killed in 2004. General McChrystal sent this P-4 memo to three people: General Abizaid, from Central Command; General Brown, from U.S. Special Operations Command; and General Kensinger, from the Army Special Operations Command. The purpose of this P-4 was to have one or more of these generals warn President Bush, the Secretary of the Army, and other national leaders that it was, "highly probable or highly possible that an ongoing investigation was about to conclude that Corporal Tillman was killed by his own unit.''
General McChrystal explained why this P-4 message was so important. He stated, "I felt 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 embarrassment if the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death became public.''
Well, this P-4 memo was sent on April 29th, 1 week after Corporal Tillman's death. This was 4 days before the memorial service, at which the Tillmans and the Nation were told Pat Tillman was killed by hostile fire. And this was an entire month before the Pentagon told the Tillman family and the public that Corporal Tillman was killed by U.S. forces.
For today's hearing, we invited all of the recipients of the P-4 to determine how they responded. Did they, in fact, alert the White House? Did they alert the Army Secretary, the Secretary of Defense? Did they pass it up the chain of command? One of the addressees is General Kensinger. He refused to appear voluntarily, and apparently evaded service of the committee's subpoena, so he is not here today, but we do have two of the other addressees of the P-4 memo, General Brown and General Abizaid, as well as General Myers, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary Rumsfeld. They are appearing here today voluntarily, and I thank you all for being here. They have had distinguished careers and have served our Nation with honor. They are continuing to serve their country by cooperating with this congressional investigation.
General Abizaid, let me start with you. If you look closely at the P-4, the third and fourth lines actually have different levels of addressees. General Brown and General Kensinger were listed as info, which I understand is the equivalent of a CC, a carbon copy. But you were listed as a "to.'' So General McChrystal really wanted this to go to you. When did you receive this memo?
General Abizaid. I believe that the earliest I received it was on the 6th of May.
Chairman Waxman. 6th of May. And why did it take so long?
General Abizaid. Well, let me explain the timing sequence, if I may, Congressman, starting from the 22nd, as I saw it. Would that be helpful?
Chairman Waxman. Sure.
General Abizaid. On the 22nd, the incident occurred. I believe about the 23rd, General McChrystal called me and told me that Corporal Tillman had been killed in combat, and that the circumstances surrounding his death were heroic. I called the chairman and discussed that with the chairman.
Throughout that period I was in Iraq, Qatar, etc. On the 28th, I went to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, I met with General Olson and General Barnow, our commanders there, and I also had the chance to talk to the platoon leader, who was Corporal Tillman's platoon leader, and I asked him about the action, and he gave no indication that there was a friendly fire issue.
On the 29th, General McChrystal sent his message, and it went to my headquarters in Tampa, and it was not retransmitted for reasons of difficulties with our systems within the headquarters until the 6th at the earliest, and it could have been later that I received it. But it is my recollection then on the 6th, probably the 6th, it is a guess, I can't be sure exactly the date, I called the chairman. I told the chairman about having received General McChrystal's message that friendly fire was involved.
Chairman Waxman. You immediately told the chairman?
General Abizaid. As soon as I saw the message. I can't remember how the existence of the message came to my attention, but it was known within my staff that something was out there, and we found it. I called the chairman. I told the chairman about it, and it was my impression from having talked to the chairman at the time that he knew about it.
Chairman Waxman. OK. Your staff seemed to know about it. Was that they knew there was a memo, or they heard it might have been friendly fire that killed him?
General Abizaid. I think they had heard there was an investigation ongoing within the Joint Special Operations Command.
Chairman Waxman. Um-hmm. So you actually received the P-4 memo a week after it was written, but it was also 3 weeks before the memorial service where the family still didn't know. Your chain of command, you were the Commander of CENTCOM; you had a direct reporting requirement to the Defense Secretary. After you read the P-4, who did you contact? Just General Myers?
General Abizaid. I contacted General Myers. And my responsibility is to report to the Secretary through the chairman. I generally do that. I talked to the Secretary a lot, I talked to the chairman a lot during this period. But 90 percent of what I talked to him about was what was going on in Fallujah, what was going on combat operationally throughout the theater. And as a matter of fact, when I called the chairman, there was a whole list of other things that I believe I talked to him about concerning the circumstances in Fallujah in particular.
Chairman Waxman. What did you say to him about this P-4 memo?
General Abizaid. I can't remember exactly what I said to him. I said it is clear that there is a possibility of fratricide involving the Tillman case; that General McChrystal has appointed the necessary people to investigate to determine precisely what happened; and that while it is likely that there is fratricide, we will know for sure after the report is finalized, which will reach me when it gets done.
Chairman Waxman. What did he say to you in response?
General Abizaid. Like I say, he gave me the impression -- I can't remember his exact words -- that he understood that there was an investigation ongoing.
Chairman Waxman. So he seemed to already know about the fact there was an investigation?
General Abizaid. He seemed to, yes.
Chairman Waxman. And what about your own reporting requirement to the Secretary? Did you ever discuss the fratricide investigation with Secretary Rumsfeld or his office?
General Abizaid. No, I did not talk to the Secretary that I can recall directly about it until I was back in D.C. around the time period of the 18th through the 20th. And at the time I informed him that there was an investigation that was ongoing, and it looked like it was friendly fire.
Chairman Waxman. The P-4 memo said the President should be notified that Corporal Tillman was highly possibly killed by friendly fire. What steps did you take to make sure the President received this information?
General Abizaid. I notified the chairman. I never called the President direct on any operational matter throughout the 4-1/2 years of being in the theater.
Chairman Waxman. OK. Well, General Myers, let's turn to you. You were the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Under the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, you were the senior ranking member of the Armed Forces and the principal military adviser to the President and the Secretary of Defense. The P-4 was not addressed to you, but General Abizaid just said that he called you and told you about the suspected fratricide. First of all, is that correct? Did he call you?
General Myers. I can't recall specifically, but it is entirely likely that it is exactly as he recalls it. I would trust his judgment in this matter.
Chairman Waxman. You don't remember what he said or what you said back in that conversation?
General Myers. No. No recall of that.
General Abizaid. OK. General Abizaid testified, as you heard, when he called you, you already knew about it. Is that accurate?
General Myers. Yes. The best I can determine, once I got the letter from the committee and talked to some of the folks on my staff, is that I knew right at the end of April that there was a possibility of fratricide in the Corporal Tillman death, and that General McChrystal had started an investigation. So when he called, if he called later than that, then I would already have known that.
Chairman Waxman. How would you have known that? Who told you?
General Myers. I can't tell you. I don't know how I knew. To the best of my knowledge, I have never seen this P-4. It could have come several ways. The most likely is in our operations shop, we have folks from Special Forces that -- from Special Forces that might have known this and passed it to me at a staff meeting. I can't tell you who passed it to me. I just don't know. Or it could have been I have read General Schoomaker's testimony in front of the DOD IG, and he said he might have called me. That is another way it could have happened. I just can't recall.
Chairman Waxman. General Myers, you told our staff last night that at the time you received the call from General Abizaid, it was common knowledge that Corporal Tillman had been killed by friendly fire. Is that accurate? Was it common knowledge that the fratricide was --
General Myers. No. If I said that, it was a mistake. I don't know that it was common knowledge at that point.
Chairman Waxman. But you knew about it, and others around you knew about it.
General Myers. Yes, and I told -- in working with my former public affairs adviser, I said, you know, we need to keep this in mind in case we go before the press. We have just got to calibrate ourselves. With this investigation ongoing, we want to be careful how we portray the situation.
Chairman Waxman. Yeah. Well, was it fair to say it was widely known by people in the DOD?
General Myers. You know, I can't recall. As General Abizaid said when he mentioned this to me, we probably talked about a lot of other things, to include the situation in Fallujah, which was getting a lot of attention at the moment. But I just can't recall.
Chairman Waxman. OK. Thank you.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. General Myers, when you learned that this was a possible fratricide, what would Army regulations require you to do or the chain of command to do at that point?
General Myers. I don't come under Army regulations, but -- I don't think there is any regulation that would require me to do anything actually. What I would normally do -- it was in Army channels. What I would normally do, if I thought the Secretary did not know that, I would so inform the Secretary. I cannot recall whether or not I did that.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. We are going to find out in a second.
General Myers. Yeah, well, I think -- you can ask the Secretary. But I don't recall if I did that.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. What would Army regulations have required at that point?
General Myers. My understanding is the way the Army regulations were written, and this is from research here getting ready for the committee, is that they should have notified the family at the time that there was a possibility of fratricide as soon as they knew it.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. Nobody at the top was ensuring that -- really looked at the regulations at that point?
General Myers. That wouldn't be our responsibility. When I learned that General McChrystal had initiated an investigation, that was -- that was good for me. I know he had worked for me before. I knew his integrity. I said, this is good, and they are going to do an investigation. We will learn the truth.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us today. How and when did you learn that Corporal Tillman had been killed? There is a button on the base.
Mr. Rumsfeld. I don't recall precisely how I learned that he was killed. It could have been internally, or it could have been through the press. It was something that obviously received a great deal of attention.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. Do you remember did you take any action at the time that you learned that he was killed? Obviously, this was an American hero. This could be highly publicized and of great concern to a lot of people.
Mr. Rumsfeld. The only action I can recall taking was to draft a letter to the family.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. OK. Before he did so, were you aware that President Bush was going to reference Corporal Tillman in a correspondents' dinner speech on May 1st?
Mr. Rumsfeld. No.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. So to your knowledge or recollection, you never had any conversations with the President or anybody at the White House about that possibility?
Mr. Rumsfeld. I have no recollection of discussing it with the White House until toward the -- when it became a matter of public record about the fratricide. At that point, and when the family was notified, I am sure there were discussions with the White House, but prior to that, I don't have a recollection of it. Possibly Dick does. Dick Myers and I met with the White House frequently, but I don't recall bringing this up.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. General Myers.
General Myers. And I don't recall ever having a discussion with anybody at the White House about the Tillman case one way or another.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. Mr. Secretary, were you aware in the period after Corporal Tillman's death of the extensive media coverage being given to this tragic event and Corporal Tillman's service as a Ranger?
Mr. Rumsfeld. I don't understand the question.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. You were aware of the extensive media coverage being given to this event?
Mr. Rumsfeld. When he was killed, absolutely.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. Did you instruct your staff at any point to try to influence in any way the coverage?
Mr. Rumsfeld. Absolutely not. Indeed, quite the contrary. The Uniform Code of Military Justice and the investigation process is such that anyone in the command, chain of command, is cautioned to not ask questions, to not inject themselves into it, to not do anything privately or publicly that could be characterized as command influence which could alter the outcome of an investigation. And as a result, the practice of most Secretaries of Defense and people in the chain of command is to be very cautious and careful about inquiring or seeming to have an opinion or putting pressure on anyone who is involved in any portion of the military court-martial process or the investigation process. And as a result, I have generally stayed out over my tenure as Secretary of Defense.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. Do you remember when you learned that this was a possible fratricide?
Mr. Rumsfeld. Well, I don't remember. And what I have been told subsequently is that there was a person in the room when I was -- who says I was told when he was in the room. And --
Mr. Davis of Virginia. Do you remember when that was?
Mr. Rumsfeld. He said that he came back from Iraq on May 20th, and that, therefore, he assumes I was told on or after May 20th. Whether I was told before that, I just don't have any recollection. And the best I can do is what I put in my letter to the acting Inspector General, which referenced that instance.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. When you learned about this, then, for the first time, do you remember did you decide you needed to tell somebody else about this to convey this, make sure the family was known, the White House or media people? Do you remember?
Mr. Rumsfeld. I don't recall when I was told, and I don't recall who told me, but my recollection is that it was at a stage when there were investigations underway, in which case I would not have told anybody to go do something with respect to it. And as Chairman Myers says, this was a matter basically that the Army was handling, and it was not something that I would inject myself into in the normal course of my role as Secretary of Defense.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. Let me just try to get to that. Your letter says that I am told I received word of this development, i.e., the possibility of fratricide, after May 20, 2004, because that is when this person had returned --
Mr. Rumsfeld. Right.
Mr. Davis of Virginia [continuing]. From Iraq.
Mr. Rumsfeld. That is where that came from.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. Who was the person? Do you remember?
Mr. Rumsfeld. I do. His name is Colonel Steve Bucci, and he told that to my civilian assistant.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. And the May 20th date, the significance of that is the date he returned from Iraq?
Mr. Rumsfeld. That is my understanding.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. So it would have been at that time or a subsequent date in all likelihood.
Mr. Rumsfeld. That is my understanding. That is not to say that was the time, because I just simply don't recollect, but that is my best information.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. As it gets refreshed. I understand.
When did you learn of the P-4 message? This message suggested that senior leaders be warned about the friendly fire possibility. And when you learned that these instructions had been heeded, what was your reaction that there was a P-4 underway? Do you remember that?
Mr. Rumsfeld. I don't remember when or from whom I learned about the P-4, if at all. I don't recall even seeing it until recent weeks in the aftermath of your previous hearings. But so I just don't have any recollection of having seen it until more recently.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. On March 6, 2006, you sent a snowflake to your deputy, the Secretary of the Army, the Army Chief of Staff and others, and in this memorandum you wrote, I am not convinced the Army is the right organization to undertake the fifth investigation of Pat Tillman's death. Please consult with the right folks and come back to me with options and a recommendation fast with the right way to proceed.
Why did you believe the Army was not the right organization to undertake the investigation which followed General Jones' inquiry?
Mr. Rumsfeld. Well, I don't remember the phraseology of that, but my recollection is that I asked the question of the deputy, who kind of is very deeply involved in the business of the Department, that if there have been several investigations by the Army, mightn't it be logical, that if still an additional one was necessary, that one ought to consider where is the best place to have that investigation conducted? I didn't know the answer to the question, but I raised it with the deputy, thinking that it is something that ought to be addressed.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. Did you believe the Jones investigation was deficient in some way?
Mr. Rumsfeld. I had no reason to believe that, except that, as I recall, we were moving into -- the Army was moving into -- the command, whoever was doing the investigations, were moving into the fifth one.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. So you were looking at fresh eyes, basically.
On March 10, 2006, the DOD Early Bird publication included a column from the Arizona Republic which discussed the Tillman family's dissatisfaction with the notification process and the subsequent investigations. On March 13th, you sent a copy of this article, along with a memo, to the Secretary of the Army and to Pete Schoomaker, the Army Chief of Staff. In this memo you said, I would think you, Pete, would want to call and/or write a letter of apology to the family and have it published. This situation has been handled very poorly. It is not acceptable, and you may want to say that. If you agree, you will need to set about fixing the system or process that produced this most unfortunate situation.
Do you remember that?
Mr. Rumsfeld. I do. I don't have it in front of me, but that sounds about right.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. Do you know if they did as you asked?
Mr. Rumsfeld. I don't. I know that -- I have a vague recollection that in one instance the Secretary of the Army came back to me and indicated something to the effect that he agreed generally with my note, but felt that he -- they were taking the appropriate steps or something. And I just don't recall it.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. On March 13, 2006, 3 days later, the DOD Early Bird publication included a column from the Atlanta Constitution, which further discussed various complaints about the notification process and the subsequent investigation of Corporal Tillman's death. Two days later, March 15th, you sent a copy of this article, along with another memo, to the Secretary of the Army. In this memo you said, here is an article on the death of Corporal Tillman. How in the world can that be explained? I guess did the Secretary offer any explanation on the various foul-ups in this matter to you? And what was your reaction at this point to any explanation he might have given?
Mr. Rumsfeld. Well, I can't remember specifically, but as you read those things, obviously, I, as Secretary of Defense -- one feels terrible that a situation like that is being handled in a way that is unsatisfactory and that additional investigations were required. On the other hand, a Secretary of Defense has to try to pose it as questions rather than assertions, because I didn't -- I was not intimately knowledgeable of the nature of those investigations. I wasn't in a position to give direction without risking command influence, in my view. And as a result, I posed these memos to these people responsible with questions rather than assertions.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I would just last, seeing where we are today and how this was handled, you are Secretary of Defense, how do you feel about it?
Mr. Rumsfeld. Well, I feel, as I indicated in my opening remarks, a great deal of heartbreak for the Tillman family, and deep concern, and a recognition that the way the matter was handled added to their grief. And it is a most unfortunate situation that anyone has to agree is something that the Department has to find ways to avoid in the future. We owe the young men and women who serve our country better than that.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. You think we certainly owe the Tillman family an apology the way this was handled?
Mr. Rumsfeld. Indeed, as I said in my memo sometime back.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. Thank you.
Mr. Rumsfeld. And as I have said publicly here today.
Mr. Davis of Virginia. Thank you.
Chairman Waxman. Let me announce to the Members there are votes going on, but we are going to continue the hearing. So if you wish to respond to the vote and come back, we are going to proceed on the line of questioning.
Mrs. Maloney. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I thank all the panelists for your service and for cooperating with the committee today.
I would like to followup on General Myers' testimony, where you testified that you learned that Corporal Tillman had been killed by friendly fire at the end of April, and that you reached out to your public affairs officer to calibrate your response in order to be absolutely accurate and precise in your response. Yet May 3rd, there was a memorial service held for Corporal Tillman, which got a great -- he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. It was national news that he had been killed in hostile fire. And at this memorial service he received the Silver Star, if I recall. And yet the family and the world at this point on May 3rd were told that he died with hostile fire, when you knew, as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that he died with friendly fire, and you knew this for a month before, and in your own words you wanted to be precise about this information.
Why did you not come forward and tell the family and tell the public the truth? The family was not told the truth until the end of May.
General Myers. Well, first of all, I did not know that Corporal Tillman had been killed by friendly fire. I didn't say that. What I said was that I was informed that it is possibly friendly fire, and that there is an investigation ongoing.
In terms of notifying the family, that is in Army channels, and we have just talked about the regret there is for the fact that was not done properly. If it had been done properly, my assumption would be they would have known before the memorial service. So I did not know it was friendly fire until the investigation.
Like Secretary Rumsfeld, when you are in a senior position, you have to be very careful what you say about it. And that is why I talked to the public affairs officer. By the way, I talked to my former public affairs officer --
Mrs. Maloney. Yet, General Myers, you knew that he died, that there was a possibility that he died by friendly fire. We are told all the time in the press possibilities. We are told, hopefully, the truth. So at that point you knew then, 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 would have wanted to hear the truth. They testified they would have wanted to hear the truth. And if there was a possibility, they would have wanted to hear the possibilities. And usually in this country what we hear is the possibilities, and hopefully the truth coming forward. And yet in this, this was not -- you sat on your hands and you didn't say anything about it. And I find that hard to understand.
General Myers. Well, as you understand, I think, from the materials that have been presented to the committee so far and all the testimony, this is the responsibility of the U.S. Army, not of the Office of the Chairman. And so I regret that the Army did not do their duty here and follow their own policy, which we have talked about. But they did not. My assumption would have to be -- my assumption --
Mrs. Maloney. General Myers, do you regret your actions that you did not reach out -- you were the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Army is under you.
General Myers. That is not entirely correct.
Mrs. Maloney. Let's get into what is right and fair and not the --
General Myers. What is right and fair is exactly what Secretary Rumsfeld talked about. What was right and fair is to follow Army policy and notify the family when they think there is a possibility.
Mrs. Maloney. So the family should have been notified that there was a possibility.
General Myers. According to the Army regulations, as I understand them, that is correct. By the way, the Marine regulations don't. They don't notify until they are for sure is my understanding.
Mrs. Maloney. So the Army did not follow their guidelines that they should have told the family and the public that there was a possibility that our hero, our football hero and war hero, died by friendly fire.
General Myers. They should have talked about the possibility of that as soon as they knew it, according to the regulations, absolutely.
Mrs. Maloney. I would like to ask Secretary Rumsfeld, Corporal Tillman was a very, very famous soldier when he enlisted. It was very acknowledged by many people. He was a professional football player; he was offered millions of dollars in a contract that he turned down to serve our country. He captured your attention when he enlisted in May 2002, and you sent a letter on June 28, 2002, which I would like to make part of the record. And in it you write him and you say, I heard that you are leaving the National Football League to become an Army Ranger. It is a proud and patriotic thing that you are doing.
We also received yesterday --
Chairman Waxman. Without objection that will be made part of the record.
Mrs. Maloney. Thank you.
[The information referred to follows:]
Mrs. Maloney. We also received yesterday a snowflake that you sent about Corporal Tillman that is dated June 25, 2002. And a snowflake is a name that you give to memos that are sent to senior defense officials. And you sent this snowflake to Thomas White, then-Secretary of the Army. And the subject line is Pat Tillman. And let me read what you said here. "Here is an article on a fellow who is apparently joining the Rangers. He sounds like he is world-class. We might want to keep an eye on him.''
May I put this in the record, sir?
Chairman Waxman. Without objection, that will be ordered.
[The information referred to follows:]
Chairman Waxman. The gentlelady's time has expired. Did you want to --
Mrs. Maloney. May I ask for an additional --
Chairman Waxman. Were you leading to a question?
Mrs. Maloney. Yes, I was.
Chairman Waxman. OK. Would you ask it quickly?
Mrs. Maloney. When Corporal Tillman was killed in 2004, was this a blow to you when you heard this news?
Mr. Rumsfeld. It is. Clearly it is a blow when you read of a death of a young man or a young woman who is serving our country in uniform and gives their lives. It is always a heartbreaking thing for anyone in a position of responsibility to read about.
Mrs. Maloney. That's --
Chairman Waxman. Thank you, Mrs. Maloney.