- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 15, 2004

A disgruntled former Texas National Guard soldier is the focus of intense media scrutiny into whether he leaked hotly disputed memos to CBS News on President Bush’s military record.

The former Army Guardsman is retired Lt. Col. Bill Burkett of Abilene. For years, he has charged, but not proven, that Mr. Bush’s political operatives sanitized the then-Texas governor’s Air National Guard records at Guard headquarters in Austin, Texas.

Mr. Burkett once claimed that he was sent to Panama as retaliation for making the charge against Mr. Bush’s aides. He later retracted that version, but continued to insist he overheard Bush aide Joe Allbaugh tell a general to cleanse Mr. Bush’s record. Mr. Allbaugh called the charge “absolute garbage.”

Retired Air Guard Maj. Dean Roome, a colleague of Mr. Bush’s in the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, said yesterday he believes the forger is “a former Army Texas Guard soldier.” He declined to provide any suspects, but said certain writing features indicate a soldier, not an airman, wrote the memos.

“These are so blatantly fraudulent,” he said. “It looks obvious from the standpoint of the kind of information. It had to come from somebody who had an affiliation with the units and they had to have an ax to grind against President Bush. There are a few people out there who are really angry. It’s a Texas Guardsman type, Army type.”

Meanwhile, pressure on CBS mounted yesterday. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, sent a letter to CBS News President Andrew J. Heyward, demanding to know how CBS got the memos.

“The evidence suggests strongly that their story was false,” Mr. Blunt wrote. “We urge CBS to retract its story, and to disclose the identities of the people who have used your network to deceive your viewers in the final weeks of a presidential election. We look forward to hearing from CBS News quickly.”

The New York Times reported yesterday that a CBS News source has acknowledged privately that Mr. Burkett was a source for a Sept. 8 “60 Minutes” broadcast that produced the never-before-seen, 30-year-old memos purportedly written by Mr. Bush’s squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian. Col. Killian died of a heart attack in 1984. Newsweek first reported Mr. Burkett’s involvement.

Since the release of the two signed, and two unsigned memos, a number of forensic document experts have told newspapers, TV networks and wire services that they believe the memos are fake.

Now, the press focus has shifted to identifying who provided the possible forgeries in an effort to prove once and for all whether they are real or phony.

CBS’ Dan Rather, who reported the “60 Minutes” segment, stands by the reporting and says the documents are genuine. He says he will only reconsider if someone provides “definitive proof” that the memos are bogus. A CBS statement said the memos came from “unimpeachable sources.”

Mr. Burkett’s attorney, David Van Os, said yesterday through a spokeswoman that he has been instructed by his client not to comment. The New York Times reported yesterday that Mr. Van Os refused to say if his client played a role in providing the memos to CBS.

The New York Times quoted Mr. Van Os as saying, “If, hypothetically, Bill Burkett or anyone else, any other individual, had prepared or had typed on a word processor as some of the journalists are presuming, without much evidence, if someone in the year 2004 had prepared on a word processor replicas of documents that they believed had existed in 1972 or 1973 — which Bill Burkett has absolutely not done” — then he continued, “what difference would it make?”

Mr. Van Os released a statement last night disputing part of the New York Times quote and attacking Mr. Bush and the press.

“My purpose in making this point was to illustrate how the new effort of the White House spin machine and its media puppets to focus upon Lt. Col. Burkett is but another and typical effort to destroy an individual citizen as a way to deflect attention away from relevant public issues,” Mr. Van Os said.

“For this reason, Lt. Col. Burkett no longer trusts any possible outcome of speaking to the press on any issue regarding George W. Bush and does not choose to dignify recent spurious attacks upon his character with any comment.”

According to a Houston Chronicle account in February, Mr. Burkett in 2003 wrote on an anti-Bush Web site that he was sent to Panama on Guard duty for failing to purge the governor’s military records. A year later, he backed off that claim. “That statement was not accurate, that is overstated,” the Chronicle quoted him as saying.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide