Army Secretary Peter Geren is expected to recommend that a retired three-star general be demoted for his role in providing misleading information about the death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman, military officials say, in what would be a stinging and rare rebuke.
Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger, who headed Army special operations, is one of six high-ranking Army officers expected to get official reprimands for making critical errors in reporting the circumstances of Tillman’s purported friendly-fire shooting in Afghanistan in April 2004.
The officials requested anonymity because the punishments under consideration by Geren have not been made public. The Army said that no final decisions have been made, and that once they are and the Tillman family and Congress have been notified, there will be an announcement sometime next week.
Geren also is considering issuing a letter of censure to Kensinger, who is receiving the harshest punishment of those involved in what has become a three-year controversy that triggered more than half a dozen investigations. Five other officers, including three generals, are expected to be issued less severe letters criticizing their actions.
Army officials opted not to impose harsher punishments, which could have included additional demotions, dishonorable discharges or even jail time. One senior officer, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, escaped punishment.
Tillman’s mother, Mary, said the impending punishments were inadequate.
“I’m not satisfied with any of it,” she said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
She rejected the Pentagon’s characterization of the officers’ offenses as “errors” in reporting Tillman’s death, when several officers have said they had made conscious decisions not to tell Tillman’s family that friendly fire was suspected.
Geren’s pending decisions come four months after two investigative reports found that Army officers provided misleading and inaccurate information about Tillman’s death. A central issue in the case has been why the Army waited about five weeks after it suspected the former NFL star’s death was caused by friendly fire before telling his family.
The probes found that nine officers – including four generals – were at fault in providing the bad information and should be held accountable. But the reports determined that there was no criminal wrongdoing in the actual shooting, and that there was no deliberate cover-up.
Geren then tapped Gen. William Wallace to review the probes and recommend disciplinary actions. Wallace disagreed with initial findings against McChrystal, according to the military officials.
But Wallace also surprised Army officials by singling out a 10th officer for rebuke – one who had not been blamed in the earlier reports.
Brig. Gen. Gina Farrisee, who is director of military personnel management at the Pentagon, is expected to receive a letter of punishment for her involvement in the oversight of the awarding of Tillman’s Silver Star.
Two others who were blamed in earlier reports are also expected to receive letters of admonishment: Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, who led one of the early Army investigations into the matter, and now-Brig. Gen. James C. Nixon, who was Tillman’s regimental commander.
Jones, now retired from the Army, was faulted for failing to address several issues in his probe, leading to speculation that Army officials were concealing information about Tillman’s death.
Nixon was criticized for failing to ensure that Tillman’s family was told.