Panel to decide whether Kensinger has rank reduced

WASHINGTON -- The Army censured a retired three-star general
Tuesday for a "perfect storm of mistakes, misjudgments and a
failure of leadership'' after the 2004 friendly-fire death in
Afghanistan of Army Ranger Pat Tillman.

Army Secretary Pete Geren asked a military review panel to
decide whether Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger, who led Army special
operation forces after the Sept. 11 attacks, should also have his
rank reduced.

In a stinging rebuke, Geren said Kensinger "failed to provide
proper leadership to the soldiers under his administrative
control'' when the Army Ranger and former pro football star was
killed in 2004.

Geren said that while Kensinger was "guilty of deception'' in
misleading investigators, there was no intentional Pentagon
cover-up of circumstances surrounding Tillman's death -- at first
categorized by the military as being from enemy fire.

"He let his soldiers down,'' Geren said at Pentagon news
conference. "General Kensinger was the captain of that ship, and
his ship ran aground.''

Geren said he has directed a review panel of four-star generals
to decide whether Kensinger, a three-star, should have his rank
reduced. If Kensinger is demoted to major general, his monthly
retirement pay of $9,400 would be cut by about $900, according to
Army officials.

"Had he performed his job properly, had he performed his duty,
we wouldn't be standing here today,'' Geren said.

Kensinger, who retired in February 2006, received a letter of
censure from Geren that said he "subverted the trust'' that had
been placed in him and "caused lasting damage to the reputation
and credibility of the U.S. Army.''

Geren said he considered recommending a court-martial for
Kensinger but ruled it out.

Kensinger, whose line of authority included the Army Rangers,
also failed to properly notify the Tillman family a fratricide
investigation had begun shortly after he was killed and did not
initiate a required safety investigation.

Kensinger's lawyer, Charles W. Gittins, said in an e-mail
message to The Associated Press on Tuesday night that his client
"had no reason to lie'' and had told investigators "everything he
knows'' about the case. In May, in a rebuttal letter to the general
who reviewed the matter, Kensinger firmly rejected all accusations
that he had lied.

Gittins also dismissed accusations that Kensinger should have
told the Tillman family about the possibility of friendly fire,
saying the retired general "was not the release authority for the
information.'' That "release authority,'' Gittins said, was Gen.
John Abizaid, then the head of Central Command.

Kensinger, a 1970 West Point graduate, was the top officer at
Army Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, N.C., from August
2002 through December 2005.

Geren's actions failed to end a three-year controversy that has
damaged the ground service's image. Even as the Army's top civilian
was telling reporters he did not know exactly when he'd receive a
recommendation from the review board on Kensinger's rank, members
of Congress were already judging whether the Army had gone far

Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Mike Honda, both Democrats from
Tillman's home state of California, said there still too many
unanswered questions.

"We still don't know the full story about the way the Pentagon
and this administration managed this tragedy,'' Boxer said in a
statement. "In my view, the Army should reconsider today's
announcement and instead move forward with harsher penalties.''

In a separate statement, Honda called Geren's actions
"necessary and long overdue'' but added "they do nothing to lift
the appearance of cover-up that continues to envelop the Pat
Tillman story.''

On Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform
Committee is holding a hearing meant to help the panel determine
who in the Pentagon knew what -- and when.

Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is scheduled to
testify, said committee spokeswoman Karen Lightfoot. The panel
issued a subpoena Monday night for testimony from Kensinger,
according to Lightfoot, who said the subpoena is in the hands of
U.S. marshals who were trying to deliver it in advance of
Wednesday's hearing.

Gittins said Kensinger was away on business travel. In his
testimony in December, Kensinger said he is a consultant for four

Kensinger "declined the committee invitation to testify two
weeks ago, so it was no surprise to the committee that he had no
intent to participate in a hearing that is all about show and no
substance,'' Gittins said without elaboration.

The punishment of Kensinger stands in contrast to the light
touch given other senior officers who were involved in a litany of
mistakes that came after members of Tillman's units accidentally
killed him in the early evening hours of April 22, 2004.

Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who oversees the military's
most sensitive counterterrorism operations, received no punishment.
McChrystal has been cited for passing on misleading information
that led to a Silver Star award to Tillman.

Brig. Gen. James Nixon, Tillman's former regimental commander,
was issued a "memorandum of concern'' for his "well-intentioned
but fundamentally incorrect decision'' to keep information about
Tillman's death limited to just his staff.

Nixon is now a top official at U.S. Special Operations Command
in Tampa, Fla.

Geren said that investigations have conclusively shown that
accidental fire from U.S. troops was responsible for the death in
Afghanistan of Tillman, who had walked away from a $3.6 million
contract with the Arizona Cardinals to become an Army Ranger.

The Army initially suggested that Tillman, 27, had been killed
in a firefight with enemy militia forces. The Army then arranged a
ceremony to award Tillman a Silver Star for bravery.

Five weeks after his death, the Army notified the Tillman family
that Tillman died from rounds fired in error by U.S. troops.

Geren cited "multiple actions on the part of multiple
soldiers'' in compounding the confusion that surrounded the death.

But there "was never any effort to mislead or hide'' or keep
embarrassing information from the public, Geren said.

He said Tillman deserved the Silver Star, the military's third-
highest award for valor in combat, despite the circumstances
surrounding his death.

He could understand how the Tillman family and other Americans
might reach the conclusion that there was a cover-up, Geren said.

"The facts just don't support this conclusion,'' he said.
"There was no cover-up.''

But he said, "We have made mistakes over and over and over, an
incredible number of mistakes in handling this. We have destroyed
our credibility in their eyes as well as in the eyes of others.''

Tillman's family has insisted there was a cover-up that went as
high as Rumsfeld. Geren was asked whether there was any indication
Rumsfeld was aware that Tillman's death was by friendly fire before
that information was made public.

"I have no knowledge of any evidence to that end,'' Geren

Aside from his decision to censure Kensinger, Geren said that he
was accepting recommendations by Gen. William Wallace, who the Army
secretary tasked to review a March report by the Pentagon inspector
general into Tillman's death.

Based on Wallace's findings, Nixon and three other officers
received a memorandum of concern. The others are:

• Retired Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, who led one of the early Army
investigations. Jones was criticized for incorrectly characterizing
Tillman's actions in describing why he should be awarded a Silver

• Brig. Gen. Gina Farrisee, director of military personnel
management at the Pentagon, for failing to ensure that the concerns
of a medical examiner were properly resolved.

• Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey, Tillman's battalion commander, for his
handling of the punishment against the Rangers involved in the
shooting of Tillman.

Three other officers also received punishments, but because they
were below the rank of general officer, the Army did not release
their names.