Rumsfeld 'has conflict,' will not testify on Pat Tillman's death
Michael Roston
Published: Tuesday July 31, 2007

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Update: This story has been updated to reflect comment from the Oversight Committee's Republican staff.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will not testify at a hearing scheduled for Wednesday on the friendly fire death of Army Specialist Patrick Tillman, RAW STORY has learned. The former Pentagon head 'has a conflict' that will prevent him from appearing, but will not face a subpoena.

Tuesday afternoon, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a witness list for the Tillman hearing. Rumsfeld, who was invited to testify by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) on July 16, was not present.

A member of the Committee's Republican staff told RAW STORY that the White House had no role in the ex-Defense Secretary's decision not to testify, and that he was not available due to 'a conflict.'

"The White House did not assert executive privilege, executive confidentiality or anything else," said Brian McNicoll, Communications Director for the Oversight Committee's Republican staff, in a Tuesday afternoon e-mail. "In fact, it had no involvement in his response. He sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member saying he had a conflict that couldn’t be resolved."

While Rumsfeld will not appear, he did answer questions from the committee. Apparently, no subpoena will be necessary.

"We posed questions to his attorney, and his attorney got right back to us with answers," McNicoll added. "The committee has enough information to not force the issue for tomorrow’s hearing."

RAW STORY did not receive comment from the Rep. Waxman's staff.

The witnesses scheduled to testify are:

* Gen. John P. Abizaid (Retired), Former Commander, U.S. Central Command
* Gen. Richard B. Myers (Retired), Former Chair, Joint Chiefs of Staff
* Gen. Bryan Douglas Brown (Retired), Former Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command
* Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger, Jr. (Retired), Former Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command

Today, the Army censured the last for these four witnesses, Lt. Gen. Kensinger, for what it described as a "perfect storm of mistakes, misjudgments and a failure of leadership," according to the Associated Press. Kensinger was also accused of 'deception.'

The hearing is set to focus on the sequence of events and what Department of Defense staff knew of Tillman's 2004 death in Afghanistan, which was falsely reported as resulting from enemy forces. Tillman's death was a result of fratricide, or 'friendly fire.'

Tillman, a former NFL player, voluntarily enlisted in the Army with his brother after September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

In an exchange on July 13 before Rumsfeld was invited to testify, Rep. Waxman announced that White House Counsel Fred Fielding had refused to issue certain documents to the committee because of executive privilege.

Earlier in the day, the group strongly criticized the White House for the assertion of privilege in the Tillman investigation.

"There is no Executive Privilege claim that holds any water when the matter is the death of an American soldier - especially one who had been used by the Administration as a poster for the war," said Jon Soltz, an Iraq War veteran who heads the group, in a statement sent to RAW STORY. "By refusing to release every pertinent document, the White House is fostering a climate of distrust among those in the military, hurting efforts to recruit new soldiers, insulting the memory of Pat Tillman, and causing undue pain to his family. Unless the President has something to hide, he should release all the documents requested by Republicans and Democrats on the Committee."