CBSN

Bush Guard Docs Flap Marches On

GENERIC George W. Bush, Military Service, Texas National Guard
CBS
An Internet writer considered the first to accuse CBS News of using fake documents in its report on President Bush's National Guard service is an Atlanta lawyer with strong ties to Republican causes, a newspaper reported Saturday.

Harry W. MacDougald, 46, is affiliated with two prominent conservative legal groups and helped draft a petition urging the Arkansas Supreme Court to disbar President Clinton for giving misleading testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, the Los Angeles Times said.

He confirmed his identify as the writer behind the Web posting, but declined to answer questions about his political background or explain how he knew so much about the documents so quickly, the newspaper said.

His posting, published on the conservative Web site www.freerepublic.com hours after the CBS News broadcast on Sept. 8, concluded the records were forged. It based the conclusions on a technical analysis of spacing and font styles.

Since then, the documents have been questioned by experts and relatives of the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who allegedly wrote them as one of Mr. Bush's commanders in 1972 and 1973. The memos indicated that Killian had been pressured to sugarcoat Mr. Bush's performance and that the future president had ignored an order to take a physical.

The network has stood by its reporting. CBS News President Andrew Heyward, however, said the network would redouble its efforts to determine the authenticity of the documents.

The revelation could fuel speculation among Democrats that Republicans have orchestrated efforts to debunk the CBS News story. Republican officials have denied any involvement.

According to the newspaper, MacDougald works in the Atlanta office of the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice and is connected to the conservative Federalist Society and Southeastern Legal Foundation, where he serves on its legal advisory board.

In 1998, he helped draft the foundation's petition that led to the five-year suspension of Mr. Clinton's Arkansas law license. He also assisted in the group's legal challenge to a federal campaign finance law funded in conjunction with a Republican senator and handled by former Clinton investigator Kenneth W. Starr.

As an attorney, MacDougald has represented government waste whistle-blowers and has challenged affirmative action laws that give racial and ethnic minorities preferences in higher education. He has not been a big financial contributor to political causes, the Times reported.

MacDougald's associates believe he acted alone when he wrote his criticism of the documents.

"Harry is a very strong conservative and a very passionate conservative so if he sees something that looks fishy, he's going to say something about it," said Lynn Hogue, former executive director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation.

Meanwhile, a retired Texas National Guard official mentioned as a possible source of the disputed documents 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 Senator 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.

Burkett, who lives just outside of Abilene, 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.
Kerry campaign officials did not immediately comment to The Associated Press on Saturday about whether Cleland or the campaign received any communications from Burkett.

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

Burkett, who identifies himself as a Democrat, did not return several phone messages left by The Associated Press over the past week. There was no answer at his telephone number Saturday.

Burkett's lawyer, David Van Os, a Democratic candidate for the Texas Supreme Court, issued a statement this week saying Burkett "no longer trusts any possible outcome of speaking to the press on any issue regarding George W. Bush."

Burkett, who retired from the National Guard in 1999, has been cited in media reports as a source for the CBS News story.

Also Saturday, a White House official said Mr. Bush has reviewed the disputed documents that purport to show he refused orders to take a physical examination in 1972, and did not recall having seen them previously.

In his first public comment on the CBS News documents controversy, the president told The Union Leader of Manchester, N.H., "There are a lot of questions about the documents, and they need to be answered."

In the telephone interview published Saturday, Mr. Bush replied "I don't know" when asked whether the White House had evidence that either the Kerry campaign or the Democratic Party was involved in releasing the disputed papers.

A White House spokesman said Saturday that Mr. Bush himself looked at the papers when CBS News first said it had obtained them early this month.

The president's communications director, Dan Bartlett, "showed the president the documents provided by CBS (News) that allegedly came from Col. Killian's personal files," said spokesman Brian Besanceney. "The president had no recollection of ever seeing the documents previously."