By Scott Lindlaw and Martha Mendoza
Saturday, August 4, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO -- A high-ranking general told Pentagon investigators that, when he approved a Silver Star citation for Pat Tillman, he suspected that the former NFL player had been killed by "friendly fire," according to testimony obtained by the Associated Press.
Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said that suspicion led him to send a memo to top generals imploring "our nation's leaders," specifically "POTUS" -- the acronym for the president -- to avoid using the award citation's language of "devastating enemy fire" in their speeches.
McChrystal wrote the memo a day after approving the Silver Star for Tillman, and investigators sharply questioned him in a November interview about the conflicting accounts, according to the testimony, obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act.
The general never directly explained the discrepancies. He told the investigators that he believed Tillman deserved the award and that he wanted to warn top U.S. military and political leadership that friendly fire was a possibility.
"Because I thought it was friendly fire, I thought it was important that key attendees know that that theory could become the finding of the investigation, and if they were going to make a statement about 'killed by enemy fire,' it might not be certain," McChrystal said.
McChrystal was then and remains commander of the covert Joint Special Operations Command, the military's clandestine "black ops" corps, which fights in the shadows of battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.
Attempts to reach McChrystal this week by telephone and e-mail were unsuccessful.
The Pentagon's acting inspector general found that McChrystal should be held "accountable for the inaccurate and misleading assertions" in the Silver Star award recommendation; and for failing to notify the officials processing the award that friendly fire was likely.
But another Army general, William S. Wallace, concluded that McChrystal had behaved reasonably in assuming the supporting material presented to him for Tillman's Silver Star recommendation was accurate. The Army's statement Tuesday made no mention of McChrystal's acknowledgment under oath that he had known before approving the Silver Star that fratricide was a strong possibility.