Officers To Be Blamed For Tillman Coverup

afghanistan pat tillman CBS/AP

It's been nearly four years since Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire. CBS News has learned that investigations by the Pentagon's inspector general will blame nine officers — including four generals — for failing to follow regulations and using poor judgment in a series of missteps that kept the truth of how he died from his family for more than a month, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.

The official version was that the former NFL star had died in a fire fight with the enemy. It was only after a nationally televised memorial service was held for Tillman that his wife and parents were told he had been mistakenly shot by one of his own men.

Until now, only low-ranking soldiers who were part of Tillman's Army Ranger unit have been disciplined in the events surrounding his death. It will now be up to the Army to decide what, if any, disciplinary action to take against these nine officers.

According to a defense official, it does not appear that the IG investigation, the fifth inquiry into Tillman's death, found any indication of an orchestrated cover-up. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said it appears that senior military leaders may not have had all the facts or worked hard enough to get the facts of what happened on that day in April 2004.

Dozens of soldiers — those immediately around Tillman at the scene of the shooting, his immediate superiors and high-ranking officers at a command post nearby — knew within minutes or hours that his death was caused by friendly fire. The IG investigation has focused on how high up the chain of command that knowledge went.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, Marines accused of shooting and killing civilians after a suicide bombing in Afghanistan are under U.S. investigation, and their entire unit has been ordered to leave the country early, officials said Friday.

Army Maj. Gen. Francis H. Kearney III, head of Special Operations Command Central, responsible for special operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, ordered the unit of about 120 Marines out of Afghanistan and initiated an investigation into the March 4 incident, said Lt. Col. Lou Leto, spokesman at Kearney's command headquarters.

A spokesman for the Marine unit, Maj. Cliff Gilmore, said it is in the process of leaving Afghanistan but he declined to provide details on the timing and new location, citing a need to preserve security.

In the March 4 incident in Nangahar province, an explosives-rigged minivan crashed into a convoy of Marines that U.S. officials said also came under fire from gunmen. As many as 10 Afghans were killed and 34 wounded as the convoy made an escape. Injured Afghans said the Americans fired on civilian cars and pedestrians as they sped away.

U.S. military officials said militant gunmen shot at Marines and may have caused some of the civilian casualties.

Hundreds of Afghan men held an anti-U.S. demonstration afterward and President Hamid Karzai condemned the incident.

Leto, the spokesman at Special Operations Command Central headquarters in Tampa, Fla., said the Marines, after being ambushed, responded in a way that created "perceptions (that) have really damaged the relationship between the local population and this unit."

"The relationship you have with the local population while conducting counterinsurgency operations is very important, and because the perceptions damaged that, it probably degraded the (Marine) unit's ability to fulfill those kinds of missions," Leto added. "So the general felt it was best to move them out of that area."


  • Christine Lagorio

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