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Inside Politics

Guardsman says he saw Bush's Guard records in trash

Allbaugh: Charges are 'hogwash' and 'absolute garbage'

George W. Bush sits in an F-102 fighter jet while serving in the Texas Air National Guard in an undated file photo.
George W. Bush sits in an F-102 fighter jet while serving in the Texas Air National Guard in an undated file photo.

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President Bush's military service records are a hot topic of debate.
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(CNN) -- A former officer in the Texas National Guard said Thursday he once overheard a conversation in which there was a request to sanitize President Bush's Guard records during Bush's tenure as Texas governor.

Soon afterward, he said, he saw Bush's Guard performance review in a trash can. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War era.

Retired Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, who was then an adviser to the Texas adjutant general, who in that capacity serves as the commander of the state's National Guard, made the allegations.

He said that in 1997 he overheard Joe Allbaugh -- who was Bush's chief of staff at the time -- ask Guard commander Maj. Gen. Daniel James to gather Bush's files and "make sure there wasn't anything there that would embarrass the governor."

Allbaugh reacted angrily to Burkett's charges, calling them "hogwash" and "absolute garbage." Allbaugh, who went on to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Bush administration, said he doesn't even know who the "goober" is, referring to Burkett.

James denied any reports were altered, according to The New York Times.

Burkett said that the day after he overhead Allbaugh's request, he heard James convey a directive to the state services officer to gather Bush's files and go through them. Then, about 10 days later, he said, he came across "files on a table."

"But I also saw at the edge of that table a roughly 15-gallon, old metal waste can. At the top of that were several pages, 20 to 40 pages approximately," Burkett said on CNN's "Paula Zahn Now."

"I glanced down at the top of those documents. In ink was the word 'Bush, George W., 1 Lt.' This was a performance report. I was right at the trash can. I filtered through the top five or six pages in that, and they were all copies and originals of old performance documents and pay records for 'Bush, George W., 1 Lt."

Burkett said he was disheartened after the incident. "All of those efforts, I felt, had been -- had undermined our cause," said Burkett, who had worked to make the Texas National Guard more efficient.

"I'm not going to get in the mud. You know, this has become a political football," he told CNN. "I'm here to tell you the same facts that I said, and I reported, and I have worked through the state legislative system in the state of Texas," Burkett said.

"This is no new allegation, this is no new case, and this is no new fact. The fact is the same today as it was in 1997. And God is my pilot, and God is in my foxhole."

Burkett's claims about Bush's records were also made in a 1998 letter to a Democratic congressman, according to the Times. In the letter, Burkett complained that his battle over medical care with the Guard led to his being hospitalized for depression.

White House communications director Dan Bartlett, who as an aide to then-Gov. Bush handled the records in 1990s, on Wednesday called Burkett's allegations an "outrageously false statement," according to the Times.

White House officials referred to Burkett as an unhappy former guardsman who had a falling out with his superiors, the paper said.

Burkett is quoted in an upcoming book, "Bush's War for Re-election," by James Moore. Moore said Burkett's "reputation is impeccable."

"And we know that the president's record in terms of his grounding as a pilot is missing. The final points totals are missing. Any medical records are missing. And a retirement statement, in terms of the points he earned, is missing," Moore said.

Questions about Bush's Guard service have intensified in recent weeks after Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said Bush was AWOL, or absent without leave, from his Air National Guard service during a period from May 1972 to May 1973 when he was transferred from Texas to Alabama so he could work on a Senate political campaign.

The White House has fought back, releasing records it says prove Bush fulfilled his requirements and was honorably discharged. Most recently, the White House released a document showing that Bush got a dental exam at the Dannelly Air National Guard Base in Alabama on January 6, 1973. (Full story)

"This again shows he was there, he served in Alabama. He was honorably discharged," said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

Burkett's allegations were on some Internet web sites just before the 2000 presidential election but were largely unreported by conventional media, according to USA Today.

But questions have lingered since that year's presidential campaign, after the Boston Globe uncovered a May 1973 evaluation by Bush's commander stating that the first lieutenant had not been seen during the previous year.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.


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