Stunning as it is to contemplate, the Associated Press obtained Pentagon documents through the Freedom of Information Act showing that investigators looked into whether the athlete-turned-soldier might have been deliberately killed in 2004 by members of his Special Forces unit in Afghanistan. Nothing the AP obtained is definitive, and ultimately the friendly-fire ruling withstood a criminal investigation.
But, according to the AP, medical examiners questioned the close proximity of three bullet holes in Tillman's forehead, fired from ten yards away. There are questions -- which will be difficult to hear, considering Tillman's heroism -- that Tillman was not well-liked within his unit. Other elements of the circumstances surrounding Tillman's death appear difficult to reconcile with the friendly-fire ruling -- which came after the Army announced that Tillman died in combat:
In his last words moments before he was killed, Tillman snapped at a panicky comrade under fire to shut up and stop "sniveling."
_ Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.
_ The three-star general who kept the truth about Tillman's death from his family and the public told investigators some 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn't recall details of his actions.
No evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene _ no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck.
Almost every aspect of Tillman's death has been surrounded by official obfuscation. The head of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, General William Wallace, is in charge of issuing reprisals to Tillman's commanders. His recommendations, according to Julian Barnes of the Los Angeles Times, are for administrative punishments and not criminal ones. The general who told investigators 70 times of his faulty memory, now-retired Lieutenant General Philip R. Kensinger Jr., will be stripped of one of his stars and lose approximately $900 a month from his retirement package.
On Wednesday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) will hold a hearing about what and when the Pentagon leadership knew about Tillman's death. Kensinger has been invited to testify, as has former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Central Command chief General John Abizaid, and former Joint Chiefs Chairman General Richard Myers. They're not likely to appear, but the AP's revelations will surely figure prominently in the committee's exploration of what exactly happened to a national hero.