A note on Lt. Cotton

On Monday we posted Lt. Tom Cotton’s letter to the editor of the New York Times on the blowing of the terrorist finance tracking program. The letter generated inquiries from ABC News, Jeff Jacoby and many readers. It also attracted substantial attention around the Internet. Some readers wrote questioning the authenticity of the letter. One message from George Spence went so far as to accuse us of inventing Lt. Cotton:

I suspect that Lt. Cotton is a fictional character you employed to lend your views about the advisability, propriety, and legality of the NYT reporting on the government’s financial surveillance program more moral and patriotic weight.

I’m currently in a running debate on a listserv I subscribe to on that very issue, and am quite willing to risk being publicly proven wrong to the great delight of my detractors. If Lt. Cotton does indeed exist, please reply with independently and objectively verifiable evidence to that effect. If you ignore me, chide me, or provide self-serving “proof,” that’ll be enough to confirm my suspicion, but I doubt it’ll make any difference to the true believers in the choir box. I eagerly await your reply.

Although Lt. Cotton has declined to respond to media inquiries, we have verified his identity and the authenticity of his message. Coincidentally, Lt. Cotton and I have several mutual friends. As we corresponded on the morning of June 26, Lt. Cotton mentioned them.

Lt. Cotton is a graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School. In 1997 Lt. Cotton was a Claremont Institute Publius Fellow. After graduating from law school in 2002, Lt. Cotton undertook the practice of law in Washington, D.C. A few years later he sought to join the Army infantry.

The Army naturally sought to turn Lt. Cotton’s professional training to use in law or administration. In January 2005, Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn wrote a glowing letter to the Army supporting Lt. Cotton’s requested assignment to the infantry, stating that “he hopes to be sent where there are enemies to fight.” Arnn added: “If you send him to fight I will pray for him, that he may be preserved to do all that he is able. That is very much.”

We understand that next week Lt. Cotton’s letter will be entered into the Congressional Record.


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