WASHINGTON - President Bush hopes someone is held responsible for the U.S. military's mishandling of information about the death of former football player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, the White House said yesterday.
Bush did not learn about the unusual circumstances of the Army Ranger's death until after the soldier's memorial service May 3, 2004, said deputy press secretary Dana Perino.
Military officers at first said Tillman had died in an ambush, when in fact he was accidentally killed by fellow U.S. troops.
Perino said of Bush: "I think that he feels deeply sorry for the family and all that they've gone through. . . . And he hopes that people are held to account."
Tillman walked away from a huge contract with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Pentagon initially misled his family about how he died April 22, 2004, and relatives did not learn the truth for more than a month.
Bush asked for updates about Tuesday's hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a hearing held to learn whether and when top Defense officials and the White House had known that Tillman's death resulted from friendly fire.
It is not clear whether Bush "heard it from media reports, or if he heard it from the Pentagon, but it was sometime after the funeral," Perino said.
In questioning what the White House knew about Tillman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) cited a memo written by a top general seven days after Tillman's death, warning that it was "highly possible" he was killed by friendly fire and making clear that his warning should be conveyed to Bush.
Bush made no reference to the way Tillman died in a speech delivered two days after the memo was written in late April 2004. The White House said there was no indication that Bush received the warning.