SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – A federal judge has ruled against a U.S. pilot who sued the Air Force for allegedly ruining his reputation in a friendly fire bombing in Afghanistan that killed four Canadian soldiers.
Maj. Harry Schmidt filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Springfield in April 2006 claiming the military violated the federal Privacy Act by disclosing parts of his military record without his permission.
The suit said military officials should not have released to the public a scathing letter of reprimand. Schmidt's attorney, Charles Gittins, has said the disclosure also violated a settlement agreement that prevented Schmidt from being court-martialed for the 2002 bombing that also wounded eight others.
Messages left for Gittins on Saturday evening were not immediately returned.
U.S. District Judge Jeanne Scott ruled in favor of the Air Force on Thursday, writing that "the competing public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs Schmidt's privacy interest."
"The release of Schmidt's reprimand gave the public, in the United States, and around the world, insight into the way in which the United States government was holding its pilot accountable. Thus considering all of the circumstances, the disclosures at issue were clearly warranted," Scott said.
On April 17, 2002, Schmidt and another pilot were flying F-16s when they spotted muzzle flashes near Kandahar airport. The Canadians were firing weapons on a training range but Schmidt mistook the soldiers for Taliban forces and dropped a 500-pound, laser-guided bomb.
The pilot has said his superiors never told him the Canadians would be conducting live-fire exercises that night.