Though Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has claimed that he only learned about the Air Force policy of dumping slain troops into a Virginia landfill this week, when it became headline news, reports today show that this is simply untrue.
Instead, Rep. Rush Holt (D – NJ) has confirmed he sent a letter to Panetta on September 16, some two months ago, asking for clarity on the Dover Air Base mortuary’s policy of dumping human remains in a landfill. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little confirmed the letter was received and said they were still working on a response.
The answer Rep. Holt was seeking, of course, has already been released in two separate reports, one from the Office of Special Counsel confirming “gross mismanagement” of human remains at the base, and another by the Air Force released the following day insisting the practice to dumping soldiers in a landfill was simply the policy at the time.
Panetta initially praised the Air Force for its “thorough investigation” of the policy, but has since retracted the statement, saying that he takes full responsibility. The question of why he is only now taking responsibility, and was completely ambivalent when pressed two months ago, remains to be answered.