Pentagon Report Cites Errors After Tillman's Death Pentagon investigators find no criminal negligence in the death of Cpl. Pat Tillman, a former NFL star who joined the Army Rangers. But they say officers in command made critical errors in reporting his death — and in recommending him for a silver star.

Pentagon Report Cites Errors After Tillman's Death

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Nine Army officers - among them several generals - mishandled the investigation into the death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman, and they should be held accountable for their actions. That's the conclusion of a report released today by the Pentagon's inspector general. It does not say that there was evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Pat Tillman was the NFL star who turned down a multimillion-dollar contract to join the Army after 9/11.

He was killed in April, 2004 in Afghanistan, and the initial story from the Army was that Tillman was killed by the Taliban in a firefight. But today's report concludes that within a day, there was clear evidence that Tillman was, in fact, the victim of fratricide - the accidental killing by friendly fire - fire of other Army rangers. It was five weeks before his family and the public finally learned the truth.

Congressman Michael Honda represents the 15th District of California, where Pat Tillman's family lives, and he has pressed for the Pentagon to investigate his death. He joins us now from Capitol Hill. Welcome to the program, Congressman Honda. And first let me ask you, in general, are you satisfied with the report?

Representative MICHAEL HONDA (Democrat, California): Well, I'm satisfied that it's more detailed than it has been in the past. And it feels like it's the end of the beginning, and that the next step is about to be initiated.

SIEGEL: The acting inspector general for the Department of Defense concludes that Corporal Tillman's chain of command is responsible for - and here's, I'm quoting - "For the inaccuracies, misunderstandings and perceptions of concealment." That's something short of actual concealment or cover up. Are you satisfied with that description of what the officers should be held accountable for?

Rep. HONDA: Well, there certainly is that perception of concealment. I think that the way you get to that is going to the next step. And I suppose that that would be through the military justice procedures, where those who are involved would be glad to come before the court of military law to go through that process in order to determine whether there was a concealment, or a whole series not paying attention to their duties and…

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Rep. HONDA: …to the requirements of reporting so that it just ends up a total mess.

SIEGEL: One recommendation from the inspector general from the Pentagon is that, well, since the account of Pat Tillman's death is now known to have been inaccurate, that the silver star that was awarded to him posthumously for valor or heroism in the face of the enemy should now be reviewed. Does it seem possible to you that Pat Tillman's silver star could be taken away at this point?

Rep. HONDA: Well, I'm not sure the term would be taken away, but I think what the military's desire is of - is to review the information and review Patrick Tillman's actions during the firefight, which in itself could be considered heroic also because he exposed himself to a firefight - whether it was the enemy or it was friendly fire.

SIEGEL: Well, would there be any precedent for a silver star being awarded to someone for action facing friendly fire?

Rep. HONDA: I don't know. I think that they're going to probably look at it based on personal motivation and the other kinds of things.

SIEGEL: This report was leaked on Friday night - the substance of it. You were not pleased with that.

Rep. HONDA: Absolutely not. We - Senator Boxer and myself - we wrote a letter to the Pentagon, to the inspector general that this be held close to the chest. And I believe that he tried. So I just express my dismay and my irritations. And I'm sure that the family had to also express that, too. But the report's out. We have to digest it and look at the conclusions and the recommendations and then also decide what our next steps are going to be.

SIEGEL: Well, Congressman Honda, thank you very much for talking with us about it.

Rep. HONDA: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's Congressman Michael Honda, who represents the 15th District of California, were Pat Tillman's family lives. He, Congressman Honda, has been pressing for the Pentagon to investigate the death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman.

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