Friendly-Fire Pilot Loses Suit Against Air Force

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Maj. Harry Schmidt, who mistakenly dropped a 500-pound bomb on Canadian troops, killing four Canadian soldiers in 2002, lost a suit against the U.S. Air Force on Thursday. Schmidt claimed the Air Force damaged his reputation by releasing the contents of a letter of reprimand. In a military-style plea arrangement, Schmidt avoided court martial for the friendly-fire accident but his actions were harshly criticized by his superiors in the letter. But U.S. District Court Judge Jeanne Scott ruled that the public interest outweighed Schmidt's personal privacy in this case. "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.

Schmidt and another F-16 pilot were flying over southern Afghanistan when they spotted muzzle flashes on the ground and thought they were hostile. The flashes came from Canadian troops conducting a live-fire exercise, which Schmidt claimed he was not told was going on. Eight Canadian soldiers were also injured in the incident.