BUSH
AP
Bush and his dad mugged for the cameras in 1968 at Ellington Field, Texas.
msnbc.com news services
updated 9/19/2004 3:42:57 AM ET 2004-09-19T07:42:57

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 senator 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.

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.

Kerry campaign denies links
“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.

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.”

Uproar over documents
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.

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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. “We have lots of groups of Democrats who communicate among themselves constantly by e-mail.”

Burkett, 55, told The AP in a lengthy telephone interview in February that he now is 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 Gen. 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 because of medical reasons. He was involved in a lawsuit against the Guard over his medical benefits, which he lost on appeal.

New Guard documents
The White House has said repeatedly that all of Bush’s Guard records have been disclosed, only to be embarrassed when new documents have turned up.

On Friday, the White House released a letter from the president’s then-congressman father George Bush thanking a general for “taking interest in a brand new Air Force trainee.” Other documents ordered released by the White House include news releases that the Texas Air National Guard sent to Houston newspapers in 1970 about young Bush, then a second lieutenant and new pilot.

“George Bush is one member of the younger generation who doesn’t get his kicks from pot or hashish or speed,” one news release said. “Oh, he gets high, all right, but not from narcotics.”

The press release and others from the Texas Air National Guard were disclosed to the media, including NBC News, in 1999, but have resurfaced amid the current furor over the president's military service.

Book denounced, charges denied
Three decades later, a new book by Kitty Kelley has alleged that Bush used cocaine while he was a student at Yale University and later at Camp David while his father was president.

The White House has denounced Kelley’s book, “The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty,” and denied the charges.

The new packet of documents also contained two single-page orders documenting Bush’s Guard training in May and June of 1973 after he returned from Alabama. Those documents note that Bush was not allowed to fly. A year earlier, he had lost his flying status when he failed to take a required medical exam.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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