Senate panel holds Arlington hearing

July 29, 2010 at 11:57 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) -- A U.S. Senate panel heard testimony Thursday on what its chairwoman called "catastrophic incompetence" at Arlington National Cemetery.

The witnesses included former Deputy Superintendent Thurman Higginbotham, who took the Fifth Amendment, and former Superintendent John C. Metzler Jr., who said he was pained by the shortcomings of his staff, The Washington Post reported. Both men were allowed to retire last month.

The cemetery, resting place of thousands of U.S. military veterans -- including Gen. Omar Bradley and Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing, President John F. Kennedy and his brothers, civil rights martyr Medger Evers and mystery writer Dashiell Hammett -- has recently been investigated five times by the Army. Problems include what may be thousands of misidentified graves.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who heads the subcommittee, said there is a "long scenario of catastrophic incompetence."

"No one took full ownership, and if you don't have full ownership, then you can't take full blame," McCaskill said. "Because there wasn't one person's head who was going to roll, nobody's heads will. It's the old finger-pointing."

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