Was Cleland the link? AP story on 'memos' - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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Was Cleland the link? AP story on 'memos'

Ex-official says he relayed Bush data

Kelley Shannon,Â* Associated Press
September 19, 2004 GUARD0919

AUSTIN, TEXAS -- A retired Texas National Guard official mentioned as a possible source of disputed documents about President Bush's service in the Guard said he passed along information to a former senator working with John Kerry's campaign.

In an Aug. 21 e-mail to a list of Texas Democrats, Bill Burkett said that after getting through "seven layers of bureaucratic kids" in the Democrat's campaign, he talked with former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland about information that would counter criticism of Kerry's Vietnam War service. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the e-mail Saturday.

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

He wrote that no one at the Kerry campaign called him back.

The e-mail was distributed to a Yahoo list of Texas Democrats. The site, which had about 570 members Saturday, is not affiliated with the state party.

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

"The Kerry campaign had absolutely nothing to do with these documents, no ifs, ands, or buts," spokesman David Wade said. "Jim Dyke inhabits the fantasy world of spin where George Bush pretends we haven't lost millions of jobs and everything in Iraq is coming up roses. He'd be better served getting answers from the president, not hurling baseless attacks."

Burkett, who retired from the National Guard in 1999, has been cited in media reports as a source for a CBS News "60 Minutes" story about documents allegedly written by one of Bush's former commanders indicating that Bush ignored an order to take a physical.

The authenticity of the documents has been called into question by some experts and relatives of the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who supposedly wrote them when he supervised Bush in 1972 and 1973. One of the memos indicated that Killian had been pressured to sugarcoat Bush's performance.

CBS has stood by its reporting but has said it will redouble its efforts to determine the authenticity of the documents.

Bush said in an interview published Saturday that there are serious questions about the authenticity of the documents.

Speaking publicly for the first time about them, he told the Manchester (N.H.) Union-Leader, "There are a lot of questions, and they need to be answered."

He said, "I think what needs to happen is people need to take a look at the documents, how they were created, and let the truth come out."
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