Controversy over Bushs National Guard record continues; CBSs credibility hit on story
A federal judge has ordered the Pentagon to hand over its records on the National Guard service of President George W. Bush by Friday, Sept. 24. The military nerve center also must provide a written statement detailing its search for additional records by Sept. 29.
Were hopeful the Department of Defense will provide a full accounting of the steps it has taken, as the judge ordered, so the public can have some assurance that there are no documents being withheld, said David Schulz, a lawyer for the Associated Press, which filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit in the matter.
The judges ruling applies to any unreleased files concerning Bushs service during the Vietnam era in the Texas Air National Guard. U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. issued the order last week in New York. The AP lawsuit has produced disclosure of previously unreleased flight logs from the presidents days as a pilot of F-102A fighter jets and other aircraft.
The White House said Bush ordered the Pentagon earlier this year to make a thorough search for his records, and officials allowed reporters to examine everything that was gathered last February.
Through a series of FOI requests and a lawsuit, the AP disclosed the flight logs that had been held back when the White House released some records earlier this year. The records of both Bush and Kerry have been made a major issue in the current campaign.
Critics claim Bush got preferential treatment because he was the son of a congressman and a U.N. ambassador. They also question why Bush failed to submit to a mandatory medical examination and drug test in 1972, and did not appear for drills for six months of that year.
Bush has claimed several times that he met all his National Guard obligations.
Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard, in what was known as the champagne unit, in 1968 after graduating from Yale. He spent a little more than a year on active duty learning how to fly and mostly flew the single-seat F-102A jet fighters until 1972.
Pilot logs show he switched to two-seat trainer jets in March of that year, not long before he quit flying. Bush skipped the required physical exam in 1972 after he stopped flying in April. He said he moved to Alabama to work on the political campaign of a family friend.
Bush did not appear for National Guard duty between late April and mid-October 1972. He was given approval to train in Alabama in September, October and November 1972. More than a dozen members of the Alabama unit of that time say they never saw him.
The only record that Bush was at the Alabama base is from January 1973 when he had a dental exam there. His commanders wrote they never saw him between May 1972 and April 1973, a period when his pay records, which were released by the White House, show he trained a total of 14 days.
Military regulations allow commanders to order two years of active duty for any guardsman missing more than three months of drills, but it didnt happen to Bush. Commanders could allow guardsmen to make up missed drills.
The Nation magazine reported its months-long investigation, which included examining hundreds of government documents, interviews with former National Guard members and officials, military experts and Bush associates, indicates Bushs personal behavior was creating alarm among his superior officers and finally would lead to Bush fleeing the state of Texas to avoid that physical exam. The magazine said he might have had a problem passing the exam. His failure to complete the examination was the official reason for suspending him from flying status.
The chief issue of whether Bush completed his military obligation has been obscured recently by a debate over whether documents released by CBSs 60 Minutes are genuine. Democrats have charged that they are bogus and they were engineered by Karl Rove, Bushs political strategist. The question here is who profits from such a story?
CBS News presented documents purportedly prepared by Bushs commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, now deceased. Killian, in these documents, seemed to be setting down a record of the events at the time Bush left the Texas Air National Guard. Among those events was that Bush failed to meet Guard standards and refused a direct order to take a physical exam. Killian also stated that he and his superiors were being pressured to gloss over any trouble that young Bush was involved in.
Bush has not specifically denied the charges of drug use. He generally has been evasive and said he could have passed the same security screening his father went through on his inauguration in 1989, certifying no drug use in the preceding 15 years.
George W. Bush seemed to be saying that if he had used drugs, it was before 1974 or during the period in which he left his Guard unit. The military in 1972 was in the process of introducing widespread drug testing as part of the annual physical exams that pilots had to undergo.
However, MSNBC and the Associated Press reported: CBS on Monday (Sept. 20) said it cannot vouch for the authenticity of documents used to support a 60 Minutes story about President Bushs Vietnam-era national Guard service after several experts denounced them as fakes.
The network said that while it was deliberately misled, it was wrong to go on the air with a story that it could not substantiate, MSNBC reported.
The report went on to say that retired National Guard Lt. Col. Bill Burket supplied the documents attributed to the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian.
Experts have supposedly criticized the documents because they appear to be computer generated, rather than typed on a 1970s typewriter.
CBSs news division finally doubted the documents after Killians former secretary, Marian Carr Knox, said she believed the memos were fake, asserted MSNBC.
Rather said the basic premise was not questionedthat Bush had a relatively cushy guard assignment and failed to satisfy the requirement of his service, MSNBC concluded.
Sources: Associated Press, MSNBC, The Nation