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More on Murtha

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I know I'm going to catch flak from the technophiles out there, but I wanted to forward along to you all the story I wrote yesterday on the Navy awarding its highest civilian honor to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.). No, this is not specifically "defense tech," but it does relate to someone who has a lot of influence on who gets it.

Anyway, I reported yesterday in a story that has hit the Drudge Report today that former SecNav Donald Winter awarded Murtha with the Navy's Distinguished Civilian Service medal. This has rubbed some vet groups the wrong way, since Murtha's anti-war outrage boiled over in May 2006 when he disclosed private briefings from Marine officials who told him civilians had been killed by grunts in Haditha in 2005 and there was an investigation going on about why.

As you all know, Murtha called the Marines (and one Navy corpsman) "cold blooded" killers and has refused to recant his position or apologize for his remarks despite the Marines' acquittal in military courts on all counts.

Well, I just got off the phone with a Navy official who gave me a few more details on how the award was bestowed and why.

Bottom line, it was a unilateral decision by then SecNav Donald Winter, who, just days before he left office, gave these awards to key members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committee, and the House and Senate Appropriations Committee's defense panel. In other words, he gave them to the folks who gave the Navy money and gear. The official was unable to provide me with a list of exactly whom these medals were awarded to (pretty special award, huh?).

The Navy official told me a typical civilian can be nominated for the award and the nomination goes before a board where it's forwarded to the SecNav who makes the final call. But that didn't happen this time.

Also, I asked for official Navy reaction to the outcry from some vets groups and the petition drive to rescind the award from Murtha and he said, "I'm not going to go down that spiral with you."

Q: Does the Navy stand by the award?...

A: "The Secretary of the Navy has the authority to present this award, and he did so."

Case closed...

And, even more mysteriously, you'd think that if the Navy was going to bestow its highest civilian award on not just one, but several civilians at one time, they'd have a pretty big ceremony or something, right? Well, the official couldn't provide me with any information on when the awards were given, where the ceremony -- if any -- was held, or whether the awards were simply mailed to the recipients with a nice letter.

The official said he'd get back to me when he found that out, so I'll update you when he does.

-- Christian

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