Nebraska Senate Candidate Shane Osborn is a former Navy Lieutenant Commander who was flying a reconnaissance mission in April of 2001 when the EP-3 aircraft he was flying was struck by a Chinese fighter plane. Osborn managed to land the plane safely, but in Chinese territory. This sparked the first of many foreign policy crises during the Bush administration. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for courage and airmanship, and the Meritorious Service Medal for leadership as a result of the episode.
Despite his medals and heroism during the episode, questions have dogged him in his political life about whether he followed military protocol when he handed over his plane and other sensitive information to the Chinese. On Sunday, the Omaha World-Herald revealed that Osborn's senate campaign was responding to criticism by distributing an unsigned memo on Navy letterhead about his conduct that was drafted by a friend in the Pentagon. The memo discussed classified directives and had not been approved for dissemination by the Navy. The memo may have been illegal and has possibly jeopardized the career of the person who authored it.
Today, the Osborn campaign apologized for the memo in a statement:
"Now questions are being raised about a memo that sought to explain the matter in an unclassified manner and the directives we followed each day in service to our country," Osborn stated.
"This was a response to attacks against my record of service to our nation of which I am very proud.
"While the facts in the memo are correct, and it was intended to clarify the issue, the manner in which it was handled was regrettable and I take full responsibility."
In related news, Joseph Prueher, former head of the U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. ambassador to China when Shane Osborn crash-landed in China, has come out in defense of Osborn's conduct in the Lincoln Journal Star:
"I ought to have the best view of almost anyone with experience running those missions and being there when the event occurred," Prueher said Tuesday night during a telephone interview from California.
"What Shane did was make a series of good decisions, and they were in accordance with Navy guidance, to land the airplane."