The former Texas National Guard officer suspected of providing CBS News with possibly forged records on President Bush's military service called on Democratic activists to wage "war" against Republican "dirty tricks" in a series of Internet postings in which he also used phrases similar to several employed in the disputed documents.
Retired Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, who earlier said he overheard Bush aides conspiring with the commander of the Texas National Guard to "sanitize" the president's military records, has refused to comment on reports that he could be CBS's confidential source. In e-mails yesterday to The Washington Post, he said he would speak out "at the appropriate time" but "that time is not now."
Former National Guard officer Bill Burkett's home is 21 miles from the copy store where the disputed documents are said to have been faxed.
(Nellie Doneva -- Abilene Reporter-news Via AP)
MSNBC Video: The Post's Michael Dobbs on the controversial documents.
Compare: Memo obtained from Pentagon differs from disputed memo obtained by CBS.
Transcript: Washington Post staff writer Michael Dobbs, who has been following the story about Bush's Vietnam-era service, was online Monday.
_____More From The Post_____
Rather Concedes Papers Are Suspect (The Washington Post, Sep 16, 2004)
CBS Guard Documents Traced to Tex. Kinko's (The Washington Post, Sep 16, 2004)
Document Experts Say CBS Ignored Memo 'Red Flags' (The Washington Post, Sep 15, 2004)
Expert Cited by CBS Says He Didn't Authenticate Papers (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2004)
Gaps in Service Continue to Dog Bush (The Washington Post, Sep 12, 2004)
Some Question Authenticity of Papers on Bush (The Washington Post, Sep 10, 2004)
Records Say Bush Balked at Order (The Washington Post, Sep 9, 2004)
Democrat Says He Helped Bush Into Guard to Score Points (The Washington Post, Sep 4, 2004)
In e-mail messages to a Yahoo discussion group for Texas Democrats, Burkett laid out a rationale for using what he termed "down and dirty" tactics against Bush. He said that he had passed his ideas to the Democratic National Committee but that the DNC seemed "afraid to do what I suggest."
In another message, dated Sept. 4, Burkett hinted he might have had advance knowledge of some details in an explosive segment that aired Sept. 8 on CBS's "60 Minutes." In addition to airing footage of an interview with former Texas lieutenant governor Ben Barnes saying he helped Bush get into the Guard, the network broadcast documents purporting to show that Bush had disobeyed a direct order to take a physical required to continue flying in the spring of 1972.
"I believe that Bush knows that there is more coming out than Ben Barnes," Burkett wrote. "No proof, just gut instinct."
In another development, the Los Angeles Times reported that an Atlanta lawyer with conservative Republican connections posted the first Web log entry questioning the authenticity of the CBS documents less than four hours after the initial broadcast on "60 Minutes." The paper identified Harry W. MacDougald as the "Buckhead," who became a hero of conservative Web sites after pointing out technical problems with the documents, such as fonts and proportionate spacing.
MacDougald declined to say how he learned about the problems with the documents so early. In addition to being released by CBS, copies of the documents were e-mailed by the White House to reporters as "60 Minutes" went on the air.
For his part, Burkett said in an Aug. 25 posting to a different Web site, Online Journal, that he and other researchers had "reassembled" files showing that Bush did not fulfill his oath to obey his superior officers. It was not clear from the context of the message, however, whether he was referring to records that have dribbled out of the White House and the Pentagon in response to Freedom of Information Act requests or to previously unpublished documents.
Yesterday, the Pentagon released more records of Bush's service with the Texas National Guard, two days after a Texas Guard official told The Post that no new documents had been discovered. The records showed that Bush's father, who was then a Republican congressman from Houston, thanked his son's commander for taking a personal "interest in a brand new Air Force trainee."
Burkett, who worked at the Austin headquarters of the Texas Guard before his retirement in 1998, has said he saw some of the younger Bush's records in a trash can when Bush was preparing to run for reelection as governor of Texas. Guard officials have called his assertion fictitious.
CBS News has refused to identify the person who provided "60 Minutes" with records purporting to show that Bush received preferential treatment from his commanders when he moved from Texas to Alabama in 1972 to take part in a political campaign and was suspended from flying for failing to take a physical. But in an interview published yesterday in the New York Observer, CBS News anchor Dan Rather gave details about his source that fit with known details about Burkett.
Rather described his source as a man who said he, along with his family, has been harassed and threatened by political operatives. In interviews with journalists over the past few years, Burkett complained about receiving threatening phone calls at home, as well as a bullet with his name on it in his mailbox.
Another retired Guard officer who was interviewed for "60 Minutes," Robert Strong, said earlier this week that Rather showed him copies of new Guard records on Bush that bore markings showing that they had been faxed from a Kinko's copy shop in Abilene, Tex., 21 miles from Burkett's home in Baird.
The CBS documents include several phrases that crop up in Web logs signed by Burkett, including "run interference," and references to a pilot's "billet." Former Air National Guard officers have pointed out that "billet" is an Army expression, not an Air Force one. Burkett has also used the expression "cover your six," a military variant of the vulgar abbreviation "CYA," which appears in one of the CBS documents.
In an Aug. 21 posting, Burkett referred to a conversation with former senator Max Cleland (D-Ga.) about the need to counteract Republican tactics: "I asked if they wanted to counterattack or ride this to ground and outlast it, not spending any money. He said counterattack. So I gave them the information to do it with. But none of them have called me back."
Cleland confirmed that he had a two- or three-minute conversation by cell phone with a Texan named Burkett in mid-August while he was on a car ride. He remembers Burkett saying that he had "valuable" information about Bush, and asking what he should with it. "I told him to contact the [Kerry] campaign," Cleland said. "You get this information tens of times a day, and you don't know if it is legit or not."
Researcher Alice Crites contributed to this report.