SAN FRANCISCO - 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 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 day after Tillman died, Spc. Jade Lane lay in a hospital bed in Afghanistan, recovering from gunshot wounds inflicted by the same fellow Rangers who had shot at Tillman. Amid his shock and grief, Lane noticed guards were posted on him.
"I thought it was strange," Lane recalled. Later, he said, he learned the reason for their presence: The news media were sniffing around, and Lane's superiors "did not want anyone talking to us," he said...
...One soldier carried a particularly heavy burden of secrecy.
Ranger Spc. Russell Baer had witnessed Rangers shooting at Rangers. Afterward, he was directed to travel from Afghanistan to the United States with his friend Kevin Tillman. But he was ordered not to tell Pat Tillman's brother and fellow Ranger that friendly fire was the likely cause of the former football player's death.
He kept the secret, fearing he did not know the whole story. But in a personal protest, Baer later went AWOL and was demoted as punishment.
"I lost respect for the people in charge of me," Baer testified in an earlier Tillman investigation. He had gleaned "part of the puzzle" of Tillman's death, but lamented that "I couldn't tell them about it."
Five investigations and three years later, that information gap is what's driving the congressional probe, which is also looking into misinformation surrounding the capture and rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch in Iraq.
The government sure loves to lie about wars (most obvious statement ever?).