Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued a statement Friday indicating the White House was asserting executive privilege once again to withhold documents pertaining to communications between the White House and the Defense Department regarding the death of U.S. Army Corporal Patrick Tillman by “friendly fire” in 2004:
Today Chairman Waxman and Ranking Minority Member Davis sent a letter to the White House objecting to the withholding of documents related to the death of U.S. Army Corporal Patrick Tillman, who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004. As a result of deficient responses from both the White House and Defense Department, the Committee also announced an August 1 hearing to examine what senior Defense Department officials knew about Corporal Tillman’s death.
Following the Committee’s April 24, 2007, hearing on the Tillman fratricide, the Committee wrote to White House Counsel Fred Fielding seeking “all documents received or generated by any official in the Executive Office of the President” relating to Corporal Tillman’s death. The White House Counsel’s office responded that it would not provide the Committee with documents that “implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests” and produced only two communications with the officials in the Defense Department, one of which was a package of news clippings. The response of the Defense Department to the Committee’s inquiry was also deficient.
In response to the deficiencies in the White House and Defense Department productions, Chairman Waxman and Ranking Member Davis today sent letters to White House Counsel Fred Fielding and Defense Secretary Robert Gates requesting complete document production by July 25, 2007. Chairman Waxman also wrote the Republican National Committee to request communications about Corporal Tillman’s death by White House officials using e-mail accounts controlled by the RNC.
In addition, the Oversight Committee announced that a hearing will be held on Wednesday, August 1, 2007, to investigate what senior officials at the Defense Department knew about Corporal Tillman’s death.
Questions surfaced after Tillman’s death when the public learned the Army withheld the truth:
The first Army investigator who looked into the death of former NFL player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan last year found within days that he was killed by his fellow Rangers in an act of “gross negligence,” but Army officials decided not to inform Tillman’s family or the public until weeks after a nationally televised memorial service.