Sunday, September 19, 2004

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A retired Texas National Guard officer mentioned as a source of disputed documents on President Bush’s service in the Guard said he passed along information to a former senator working with Democratic presidential nominee Sen. 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 Kerry campaign, he talked with former Sen. Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat, about information that would counter criticism of Mr. Kerry’s Vietnam War service.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the e-mail yesterday.

“I asked if they wanted to counterattack or ride this to ground and outlast it, not spending any money. [Mr. Cleland] said counterattack. So I gave them the information to do it with,” Mr. Burkett wrote.

Mr. Burkett, who lives near Abilene, Texas, wrote that no one in the Kerry campaign called him back.

The e-mail was distributed to a Yahoo list of Texas Democrats.

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

Kerry campaign spokesman David Wade vehemently denied a connection.

“The Kerry campaign had absolutely nothing to do with these documents, no ifs, ands, or buts,” Mr. Wade said, accusing the Republicans of making “baseless attacks.”

Mr. Burkett, who identifies himself as a Democrat, did not return several phone messages left by the AP over the past week. Retired from the National Guard in 1999, he has been cited in press reports as a source for a CBS News “60 Minutes” story about documents the network attributed to one of Mr. Bush’s former commanders.

The authenticity of the CBS memos has been questioned by document specialists and by relatives of the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who supervised Mr. Bush in 1972 and 1973.

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