US Army War College to Launch Plagiarism Probe on Senator's Thesis

Thursday, 24 Jul 2014 09:36 PM

By Andrea Billups

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The political hole deepens for beleaguered U.S. Sen. John Walsh of Montana, a Democrat  who is running for re-election and continuing efforts to explain away plagiarism in a paper he wrote for his master's degree in 2007, The Washington Post reports.

Walsh, a decorated Iraq War veteran, addressed the issue after The New York Times broke the story on Wednesday, claiming his final paper for his master's degree was largely borrowed. Now the U.S. Army War College is investigating the content of his strategy research project paper, it said Thursday, in a statement reported by the Associated Press.

"The Army War College initiated its own analysis of the paper and determined this morning that there was reasonable cause to refer the case to the U.S. Army War College Academic Review Board," the Pennsylvania school said Thursday.

The Times noted that the Democrat "appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution."

But Walsh kept his thesis foibles in the news on Thursday after his campaign issued a lengthy fact sheet that attempted to plead his case amid allegations that he borrowed material for a 14-page paper written as a final requirement for his graduate school program. The fact sheet went on to say that "while commanding the 1-163rd Infantry Battalion in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, Walsh survived hundreds of IED explosions while in a Humvee. He was targeted — by name — by al-Qaida in Iraq, and his unit endured hundreds of rocket attacks."

He defended that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was taking anti-depressants. He suggested his academic dishonesty was a result of his military service.

Walsh's camp later was forced to issue a "clarification" for an overstatement that suggested that he, personally, hadn't survived all those IED attacks, which he had claimed included hundreds, but were later revealed to be just one experience with explosions.

"He survived an attack in October 2005, while his unit endured hundreds of both IED and rocket attacks throughout the deployment," his Walsh spokeswoman said in clarification.

Walsh, in an AP interview, said that he had been dealing with post-war stress and the suicide of a fellow soldier when he penned his thesis for a master's degree in strategic studies. He was appointed in February to serve out the remaining Senate term of former Montana Sen. Max Baucus, who resigned to become U.S. Ambassador to China.

"I don't want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor," he told the AP. "My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment."

Justin Barasky, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said the scandal is politically motivated. Democrats continue to stand by Walsh, he told the AP.

"John Walsh is a decorated war hero, and it's disgusting that Steve Daines and Washington Republicans are going to try denigrate John's distinguished service after multiple polls show him gaining," Barasky said.

The odds-tracking website fivethirtyeight.com says Walsh's chances of winning are close to zero after the plagiarism scandal.

"Although a universe exists in which the Democrat could still beat Republican Rep. Steve Daines in Montana’s 2014 Senate race, it’s not a universe near to ours; Walsh had little chance before the scandal and is all but finished now," reporter Harry Enten noted in a story published Thursday afternoon.

A polling average from RealClearPolitics gave Daines a 12.5 percent lead over Walsh.

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