White House, Pentagon cite executive privilege to hold up documents on friendly fire victim Tillman
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) revealed on Friday afternoon that the White House and Pentagon were holding up a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigation into the friendly fire death of former professional football player and Army Corporal Patrick Tillman.
"[T]he Committee wrote to White House Counsel Fred Fielding seeking 'all documents received or generated by any official in the Executive Office of the President' relating to Corporal Tillman's death," noted a press release from the Committee.
But the White House has apparently again invoked its executive privilege to hold up the documents sought by Waxman and Ranking Minority member Tom Davis (R-VA).
"The White House Counsel's office responded that it would not provide the Committee with documents that 'implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests' and produced only two communications with the officials in the Defense Department, one of which was a package of news clippings," the Committe noted. "The response of the Defense Department to the Committee's inquiry was also deficient."
In their letter to Fielding, Waxman and Davis doubted that the two documents were the limits of White House-Pentagon communication over Tillman's death.
I cannot imagine what possible legitimate claim to privilege they have here. Bush, Cheney and Fielding seem to think that "Executive Privilege" is for anything that might prove embarrassing or compromising to them. As far as I understand it, it can't be used to cover up illegal activity or abused to conceal innappropriate activity. There is no other explanation for this claim about Tillman—what possible communication could they be hiding other than a White House-directed campaign to mislead the public and use his death to their political advantage?
This is perhaps the clearest, most textbook case ever of "if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide" turned on it's head. There was no communication necessary except for doing something wrong and then covering it up.
UPDATE: Steve Benen has a nice recap on the Tillman story if you need refreshing. Mark Mleiman and Emptywheel agree that this is a good place for Dems to put up a fight. This case has the capability of holding the attention of the media and casual observers far better than more intricate or obscure Bush scandals.