Editor’s note: The Pentagon briefed the Tillman family Monday following dual investigations into the alleged criminality and cover-up in the aftermath of the fratricide of Pat Tillman. The following is the family’s response, in its entirety.
The briefing we just received was shamefully unacceptable.
Our family is therefore compelled to continue our pursue the full truth about the circumstances of Pat Tillman’s death and the so-called “missteps” and “deficiencies” of Pat’s unit, the Army, the Department of Defense, and this administration.
The characterization of criminal negligence, professional misconduct, battlefield incompetence, concealment and destruction of evidence, deliberate deception, and conspiracy to deceive, are not “missteps.”
These actions are malfeasance.
This attempt to impose closure by slapping the wrists of a few officers and enlisted men is yet another bureaucratic entrenchment.
The Army continues to deny the family, and the public that pays for the Army with its taxes, access to the original investigation and the sworn statements from that investigation.
His investigation contained the unaltered statements, taken when memories were still fresh, by witnesses to the events surrounding Pat’s death.
We know from subsequent sworn statements that more than one of the original statements was altered, after Captain Scott’s investigation “disappeared.”
This is not a misstep.
It is evidence tampering.
The Army has yet to provide the family with a copy of the original narrative required by Army Regulation to support the award of the Silver Star.
While they admitted today that there were improprieties in the submission of the award, they appear to have intentionally stopped short in every single “misstep” of actual criminal actions.
Submitting fraudulent awards is a crime.
More than one person participating in the construction of a fraudulent award is evidence of a systematic cover-up.
Investigators from the Army claim that Secretary Rumsfeld was not even aware that Pat’s death was friendly fire for almost a month.
Anyone familiar with former Secretary Rumsfeld’s reputation as an unforgiving micromanager must find this claim to be extremely disingenuous.
The Army Regulation on the award of the Silver Star requires a detailed summary, confirmed by witness statements, of the exact circumstances of the event, which precipitates the award.
The award was directed before the unit had even returned from the field for debriefing.
The original draft of the award falsely claimed that Pat was killed by enemy fire, when Pat was not subjected to enemy fire throughout the entire incident.
We know, from sworn statements, that the draft was changed to exclude explicit reference to enemy fire - probably as a precautionary legal measure - while maintaining the impression that Pat was killed in an intense firefight with the enemy… which he was not.
The Army can still not cite a single instance of any Silver Star, before Pat, that was awarded in the case of fratricide, when the subject of the award was never fired upon by the enemy.
No one who knew Pat ever doubted his physical or moral courage.
But the award of the Silver Star appears more than anything to be part of a cynical design to conceal the real events from the family - but most especially, from the public - while exploiting the death of our beloved Pat as a recruitment poster.
The characterization of this fraudulent award as a list of “deficiencies” has the powerful odor of intentional minimization to a level just below criminal, in a case for which the accumulation of errors and missteps has long past the laws of probability for coincidence.
Emails discovered in the conduct of investigations refer to a “Silver Star Game Plan.” This certainly at least suggests conspiracy.
The entire military, we believe, compelled by the Secretary of Defense’s office, was seeking to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, as it was embroiled in a huge tactical setback in Iraq in April 2004, and as the Pentagon was preparing to deal with the public affairs crisis engendered by the about-to-be-revealed horror stories from Abu Ghraib.
This investigation draws conclusions, conclusions that are meant to be implanted in the minds of the American public, that say the wrongdoing flowed from bottom to top.
We base our beliefs on the relentless pattern of the administration of deception, evasion, and spin in the conduct of the entire dual-occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
We remain convinced that the priority of the Pentagon was to prevent the public knowing that Pat was killed by the military’s highest priority shock infantry unit; and that he was killed by a combination of shoddy leadership and clear violations of the Rules of Engagement, as well as violations of the Law of Land Warfare.
We detail only two major themes in a much larger story.
These themes exemplify the way this case has been handled, and the way it continues to be handled.
These examples show that we are not dealing with “missteps” and “deficiencies.”
There is an overpowering suggestion of violations of law, regulation, and policy that reaches from the vehicle that fired on Pat and took his life to the highest levels of the Pentagon, who - with his reputation as a world-class micromanager—was certainly aware of every move made in this case.
In three years of struggling with the Pentagon’s public affairs apparatus, we have never been dealt with honestly.
We will now shift out efforts into Congress, to which we appeal for investigation.
Perhaps subpoenas are necessary to elicit candor and accuracy from the military.
We do not think that Pat’s notoriety - about which Pat himself was self-effacing - gives him a special qualification for Congressional attention.
But if that notoriety can serve as a catalyst to open dozens of cases - many of the families known to us - of troops who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by fratricide, and whose families, like us, were deceived about the circumstances of these deaths.
The fact is, the malfeasance with regard to this case only happened because of Pat’s notoriety.
The reenactment graphics shown to the press and the public were designed to emphasize enough exculpatory evidence to lower the level of actions during and after Pat’s death below the bar of criminality.
These cases will further establish a pattern - now well-known by the American public - of spin and deception by the Pentagon and the administration it serves.
Our family has worked hard to stay out of the spotlight.
We have continued to be optimistic that we might receive satisfactory answers from the Pentagon and the Executive Branch.
Now we ask the assistance of Congress.
Human beings continue to be sacrificed on the altar of a dual foreign military occupation.
Thousands of Americans and Afghans, hundreds of US allies, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lives have been lost and shattered.
The deception surrounding this case was an insult to the family; but more importantly, it primary purpose was to deceive a whole nation.
We say these things with disappointment and sadness for our country.
Nonetheless, we will continue our search for the truth.
The truth is not what we received today.
Once again, we have been used as props in a Pentagon public relations exercise.
AP Photo / Haraz N. Ghanbari
Army Criminal Investigation Division Special Agent Scott Godwin, right, points to a map as Army Brig. Gen. Rodney L. Johnson, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, briefs the media about the most recent investigations into the death of Army Ranger Cpl. Pat Tillman. The news conference was held Monday at the Pentagon.