Archive for Sunday, September 19, 2004

Ex-Guard official says he contacted Kerry campaign about Bush’s service

September 19, 2004


— A retired Texas National Guard official mentioned as a possible source for disputed documents about President Bush's service in the Guard said he passed along information to a former senator working with John Kerry's campaign.

In an Aug. 21 e-mail to a list of Texas Democrats, Bill Burkett said after getting through "seven layers of bureaucratic kids" in the Democrat's campaign, he talked with former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland about information that would counter criticism of Kerry's Vietnam War service. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the e-mail Saturday.

"I asked if they wanted to counterattack or ride this to ground and outlast it, not spending any money. (Cleland) said counterattack. So I gave them the information to do it with," Burkett wrote.

No return call

Burkett, who lives just outside of Abilene, wrote that no one at the Kerry campaign called him back.

The e-mail was distributed to a Yahoo list of Texas Democrats. The site, which had about 570 members Saturday, is not affiliated with the state party.

Republican National Committee spokesman Jim Dyke suggested collaboration between Burkett and the Kerry campaign. "The trail of connections is becoming increasingly clear," he said.

"The Kerry campaign had absolutely nothing to do with these documents, no ifs, ands, or buts," spokesman David Wade said. "Jim Dyke inhabits the fantasy world of spin where George Bush pretends we haven't lost millions of jobs and everything in Iraq is coming up roses. He'd be better served getting answers from the president, not hurling baseless attacks."

Burkett, who identifies himself as a Democrat, did not return several phone messages left by The Associated Press over the past week. There was no answer at his telephone number Saturday.

Possible source

Burkett's lawyer, David Van Os, a Democratic candidate for the Texas Supreme Court, issued a statement this week saying Burkett "no longer trusts any possible outcome of speaking to the press on any issue regarding George W. Bush."

Burkett, who retired from the National Guard in 1999, has been cited in media reports as a source for a CBS News "60 Minutes" story about documents allegedly written by one of Bush's former commanders that indicated the future president ignored an order to take a physical.

The authenticity of the documents has been called into question by some experts and relatives of the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who supposedly wrote them when he supervised Bush in 1972 and 1973. One of the memos indicated that Killian had been pressured to sugarcoat Bush's performance.

CBS has stood by its reporting, but said the network would redouble its efforts to determine the authenticity of the documents.

Leading operatives for the Texas Democratic Party did not receive Burkett's August e-mail, said Kelly Fero, one of the state party's strategists.

"The Democrats who run the party and are sort of the main strategists in Texas never saw it," Fero said.

Conversation overheard

Burkett, 55, told the AP in a lengthy telephone interview in February that he now was a supporter of Democrats, although at the time he said he didn't necessarily back Kerry.

He said he overheard a conversation in 1997 between then-Gov. Bush's chief of staff, Joe Allbaugh, and then-Adjutant General Daniel James of the Texas Air National Guard in which the two men spoke of getting rid of any military records that would "embarrass the governor."

Burkett said he saw documents from Bush's file discarded in a trash can a few days later at Camp Mabry in Austin. Burkett described them as performance and pay documents. Allbaugh and James denied the allegations.

Burkett retired from the National Guard after more than 28 years of service for medical reasons. He was involved in a suit against the Guard over his medical benefits, which he lost.

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