WASHINGTON – Retired Army Lt. Gen. Phillip Kensinger, a three-star general formerly in charge of U.S. special operations in Afghanistan, was singled out for censure Tuesday for his role in notifying the family of Army Ranger Pat Tillman, who died by friendly fire in April 2004.
Army Secretary Peter Geren has ordered a review board to investigate whether to strip Kensinger of one of his stars, which would also reduce his pension by approximately $900 a month if the board of four-star generals recommends this rebuke. Their recommendation is non-binding.
Nine other officers were also criticized but not punished.
Geren said Tuesday that Kensinger is being censured for lying about his role in not notifying the family in a timely fashion that a friendly fire incident was suspected. Those lies apparently took place to investigators seven months after Tillman died.
"When you chose to lie about what you knew in order to avoid personal responsibility for your actions, you crossed a line that demands serious rebuke," Geren wrote in his letter of censure to Kensinger.
"Your failings compounded the grief suffered by the Tillman family and resulted in the dissemination of erroneous information and caused lasting damage to the reputation and credibility of the U.S. Army," reads the letter dated July 30, 2007.
The recommendations for punishment came after an army inspector general report was given to Geren by Gen. William S Wallace. Wallace found that soldiers made many mistakes in passing information to the family, though they did immediately pass the suspicion of friendly fire incident up the chain of command.
A friendly fire investigation was begun one day after Tillman's death but the soldiers and some commanders believed the information was "close hold" and classified due to the nature of the mission Tillman and his fellow Rangers were participating in at the time of his death.
Tillman was 27 when he was killed on April 22, 2004. He had joined the Rangers after walking away from a $3.6 million pro football contract. The Army has conducted seven investigations into the incident. Geren said Tuesday the Kensinger referral would be the last.
The Army secretary said they did not find any intentional cover-up. The Army inspector general did not conclude that Tillman was killed as a result of a criminal act.
"It's a perfect storm of mistakes, misjudgments and a failure of leadership," Geren said. Still, he said, "We have made mistakes over and over and over, an incredible number of mistakes in handling this. Still, he said, "the facts just don't support this conclusion. There was no cover up."
Geren said Kensinger caused "a calamity for the Army that we continue to suffer until today. ... We destroyed our credibility in their (the Tillman family's) eyes and in the eyes of many others," Geren said.
"The buck stops with Lt. Gen Kensinger," Geren added. "If he had performed his duty we would not be standing here today. ... Had he done his job these would have been harmless errors."
Geren considered a court martial for Kensinger but decided against pursuing such action. Asked if that was because it would keep the issue alive that much longer Geren said no.
Other officers cited for criticism included Brig. Gen. Gina Farrisee, director of military personnel management at the Pentagon, and Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey, the battalion commander who oversaw Tillman's platoon and played a role in the recommendation for his Silver Star. Both will receive memoranda of concern, Geren said.
Escaping any blame was Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, head of the military's Joint Special Operations Command. He oversees the military's most sensitive counterterrorism operations.
Geren said the investigations conclusively showed that accidental fire from U.S. troops caused his death. But, he added, Tillman still deserved the Silver Star he won posthumously for the bravery he showed during the firefight with enemy forces that ended in his death.
"The Army did not make Pat Tillman a hero, Pat Tillman's actions made him a hero," he said.
FOX News' Jennifer Griffin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.