EXCLUSIVE: Army to Punish Officers in Tillman Case

ABC News has learned seven Army officers face career-ending punishment.

July 26, 2007, 11:05 AM

July 26, 2007 — -- ABC News has learned that seven Army officers will receive career-ending administrative punishments for mishandling the Pat Tillman case. The Army has decided not to punish three other officers who had been accused of wrongdoing by the Pentagon inspector general.

None of the officers will face criminal charges.

The most severe punishment is planned for Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger. Kensinger is accused of misleading investigators about when he knew the truth about circumstances surrounding Tillman's death.

Senior defense officials tell ABC that Army Secretary Pete Geren is likely to recommend that Defense Secretary Robert Gates strip Kensinger, a three-star general, of his stars, a move that would reduce Kensinger's pension by approximately $1,000 a month.

Army officials would not confirm the punishments and cautioned that nothing had been finalized.

"No final decisions has been made, but those things are being considered," Army spokesman Col. Dan Baggio told ABC News. Baggio added, "It would be inappropriate for the Army to make any announcements prior to family and congressional notification, which is going to happen next week."

Tillman, a former NFL star, turned down a lucrative football contract to join the military following the September 11th attacks.

He told NFL films after the attacks: "I play football. It just seems so unimportant compared to everything that has taken place."

The Bush administration touted him as an American hero. Tillman was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.

For five weeks after Tillman's death, military officials claimed he had been killed in a firefight with the Taliban, posthumously awarding him the Silver Star.

Defense officials tell ABC News the Army has decided not to punish Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a highly regarded Green Beret who heads up the special operations unit leading the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Two colonels who were also accused of wrongdoing by the Pentagon inspector general will not receive any punishments.

Among those who will be punished, however, is Brig. Gen. Gina Farrisee, who was not among those criticized by the Pentagon's inspector general. Farrisee will be punished for mishandling Tillman's Silver Star citation.

Tillman's mother, Mary, told the Associated Press that the impending punishments were inadequate.

"I'm not satisfied with any of it," she told the AP in a telephone interview Thursday.

A central issue in the case has been why the Army waited five weeks to tell the family after suspecting Tillman was killed by friendly fire. Tillman's family believe officials within the Bush administration hid the facts surrounding Tillman's death to limit public-relations damage.

Congressional investigators announced this week that they intend to question several former Bush administration officials about their knowledge of Pat Tillman's death.

The top Democrat and Republican on the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to White House counsel Fred Fielding Tuesday, informing him about the upcoming investigation

In the 2004 speech at the White House correspondents' dinner, Bush mentioned Tillman's death, but didn't say how Tillman died.

"Friends say that this young man saw the images of September the 11th, and seeing that evil, he felt called to defend America," Bush said at the dinner.

Bush also said Tillman and his colleagues "do brave and good things without notice."

"We honor with pride and wonder the men and women who carry the flag and the cause of the United States," Bush said in his speech.

However, a week after Tillman died, a top general sent a memo to Gen. John Abizaid, then head of Central Command, warning that it was "highly possible" that Tillman was killed by friendly fire.

The memo made clear that the information should be conveyed to the president. However, the White House has maintained the President didn't received the warning.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., the committee's top-ranking Republican, plan to interview or depose five former White House officials including Scott McClellan, a former White House press secretary; Dan Bartlett, the recently resigned White House counselor and communications czar; Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter; John Currin, a former fact-checker on the speechwriting team; and Taylor Gross, another former spokesman.

The committee plans a second hearing on Tillman's death for Aug. 1, this time to probe what senior Pentagon officials knew and when.Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; Richard Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Abizaid were among those the committee has invited to appear.

With files from the Associated Press.

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