- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The attorney for the man who leaked discredited memos to CBS News’ Dan Rather is a Democratic Party activist in Texas who has vowed to defeat what he says is a White House “master plan” for “a one-party America.”

David Van Os, a San Antonio lawyer and defender of retired Texas Air National Guard Lt. Col. Bill Burkett’s role in supplying forged memos detrimental to President Bush, has held a number of local party posts, including chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party.

Mr. Van Os referred to the suspect memos this way in a Sept. 15 e-mail to reporters: “What difference would it make” if “someone in the year 2004 had prepared on a word processor replicas of documents that they believed had existed in 1972 or 1973?”

He did not respond yesterday to a telephone message or to questions in an e-mail to his law office.

Mr. Van Os served in Austin, the Travis County seat, as party chairman from 1996 to 1998, and also served as chairman of the North East Bexar County Democrats in San Antonio from 2000 to 2003.

Mr. Rather apologized Monday for putting Mr. Burkett’s memos on a Sept. 8 “60 Minutes” segment that purported to show Mr. Bush disobeyed a direct order to take a flight physical and that he received favorable treatment while a fighter pilot in the Texas Air National Guard.

Many document experts say that the memos, supposedly signed by the former squadron commander, the now-deceased Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, are fake. After initially defending the memos’ authenticity, Mr. Rather conceded that CBS has been unable to verify them.

The national Republican Party and the White House are accusing Democrats of a role in concocting the papers and persuading CBS to air them.

Mr. Van Os is running as a Democrat in his second try for the Texas Supreme Court. He donated $1,277 to Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s presidential bid, and Mr. Dean has endorsed his Supreme Court candidacy.

His resume shows a long list of Democratic Party activism, including a trip to Florida in 2000 to help then-Vice President Al Gore in the pivotal post-election recount.

Mr. Van Os is a member of, or has represented, the Democratic Party’s most activist support groups, such as the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the AFL-CIO. His law firm, David Van Os and Associates, specializes in labor law and civil rights issues.

His campaign literature for Texas Supreme Court takes on a national theme — defeating Karl Rove, the political strategist who helped Mr. Bush win two governorships in Texas and the presidency, and who is now his chief political adviser at the White House.

“Getting David Van Os elected to the Texas Supreme Court is not just about winning one race,” one campaign document says. “It is about charging straight at the heart of Karl Rove’s master plan.”

Mr. Burkett said that he supplied the memos to CBS, but denies forging them. He said he got them from a woman he identified as Lucy Ramirez. CBS News said it has been unable to prove she exists.

Mr. Van Os’ Web site includes a testimonial from Mr. Burkett, who has waged a long campaign to discredit Mr. Bush’s Guard duty.

In the e-mail sent to reporters before Mr. Burkett admitted being the memos’ source, Mr. Van Os lashed out at the press and the Bush White House.

“[T]he new effort of the White House spin machine and its media puppets to focus upon Lieutenant Colonel Burkett is but another and typical effort to destroy an individual citizen as a way to deflect attention away from relevant public issues. … Lieutenant Colonel 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.”

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