White House Denies Request for Documents in Ex-NFL Player's Death

Cpl. Pat Tillman, shown in a 2003 file photo, was killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire on April 22, 2004.
Cpl. Pat Tillman, shown in a 2003 file photo, was killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire on April 22, 2004. (Associated Press)
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 14, 2007

The White House has refused to give Congress documents about the death of former NFL player Pat Tillman, with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding saying that certain papers relating to discussion of the friendly-fire shooting "implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests."

Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), the leading members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, objected to the refusal yesterday in letters to the White House and the Defense Department.

White House and Pentagon officials have turned over about 10,000 pages of material, but Waxman and Davis said those papers do not include critical documents that would show communications between senior administration officials and top military officers shortly after Tillman was killed in Afghanistan in 2004.

Tillman's celebrity, as one who gave up a professional football contract to join the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, made his death major news. The military at first concocted a heroic story about how Tillman, a specialist posthumously promoted to corporal, had been killed in a fierce firefight with the enemy, despite obvious evidence that he had been shot by his own men at close range. More than a month later, a military investigation reported publicly that the death was not linked to enemy fire.

"The main focus of the committee's investigation is to examine what the White House and the leadership of the Department of Defense knew about Corporal Tillman's death and when they knew it," Waxman and Davis said in a letter to Fielding. "Unfortunately, the document production from the White House sheds virtually no light on these matters."

After an oversight hearing in April -- in which Tillman's family members testified -- the committee sought the documents to learn about the alleged coverup and the high-level discussions about how to spin the case. Waxman and Davis plan to hold another hearing on Aug. 1.

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