Apr 21, 2007

"Information-Lockdown Mode"

Within hours of Pat Tillman's death, the Army went into information - lockdown mode, cutting off phone and Internet connections at a base in Afghanistan, posting guards on a wounded platoon mate, and ordering a sergeant to burn Tillman's uniform.

New Army investigative documents reviewed by The Associated Press describe how the military sealed off information about Tillman's death from all but a small ring of soldiers. Officers quietly passed their suspicion of friendly fire up the chain to the highest ranks of the military, but the truth did not reach Tillman's family for five weeks.

The clampdown, and the misinformation issued by the military, lie at the heart of a burgeoning congressional investigation.

"We want to find out how this happened," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House oversight committee, which has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday. "Was it the result of incompetence, miscommunication or a deliberate strategy?" ...

Inside Forward Operating Base Salerno, near Khowst, Afghanistan, a soldier heard the dreaded call come across the radio: "KIAs." There were two killed in action, one allied Afghan fighter and one Army Ranger, identified only by his code name.

The soldier checked a roster and discovered the fallen American was Tillman. He rounded up four others and broke the news but withheld Tillman's name.

Had this soldier wanted to share the news outside the tactical operations center, it would have been difficult. "The phones and Internet had been cut off, to prevent anyone from talking about the incident," he told investigators.

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