Tuesday, April 10, 2007
A U.S. House committee has scheduled hearings on the military's misleading statements that followed the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan and the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch in Iraq, congressional officials said Tuesday.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold the hearing April 24 as part of an investigation into whether misinformation was part of a strategy to mislead the public, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because a formal announcement was scheduled for later Tuesday.
The hearings come two weeks after the Pentagon released the findings of its own investigations into Tillman's death, and three years after he was killed.
The committee has been quietly investigating the Tillman case since that release and decided to add the Lynch case to the scope of its probe.
The Tillman family and some lawmakers said the previous probes were inadequate and did not sufficiently address the role of then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in hiding the true circumstances of the former NFL player's death from his relatives for five weeks.
The Army maintained publicly during that time that he had been killed by enemy fire, when in fact his fellow Rangers shot him after a chaotic ambush and dozens of officers knew it.
Tillman's death received worldwide attention because he had walked away from a huge contract with the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Lynch, a 21-year-old former Army supply clerk, became one of the most visible faces of the war when she was rescued from an Iraqi hospital after being captured by Iraqi forces on April 1, 2003. Her convoy had been attacked after taking a wrong turn in the Iraqi town of Nasiriyah. Eleven American soldiers were killed and six, including Lynch, were captured.
Her videotaped rescue by special forces branded Lynch a hero at a time the U.S. war effort seemed bogged down.
It also stirred complaints of U.S. government media manipulation. Early reports, later disproved, had her suffering knife and bullet wounds while fighting off attackers until running out of ammunition.
The oversight committee's focus is on how the misinformation in both cases got its start, and why. It is investigating the sources and motivations behind the misinformation, and whether Bush administration officials should be held accountable, one official said.