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Sunday, July 18, 2004

Retroactively Inadvertently Destroyed 

You may already know that the Associated Press went to court on Friday to expedite the release of a full copy of the President's military service records. (Although the Pentagon claims that Bush's pay records, stored on microfilm at a federal clearinghouse in Denver, were "inadvertently destroyed" in 1996 or '97, state law requires that Texas National Guard records be separately maintained in Austin.) Jim Spencer of the Denver Post here describes the runaround a reporter faces when he tries to put his hands on the documents our President so generously pledged to release back in February:
[Roger] Still [a spokesman for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Denver] wasn't sure about the science of the transfer process. He did know that all of the old microfilm, including the president's records, was burned.

In 1972, Bush skipped a military physical. That cost him his ability to fly. The White House says this was OK because Bush still served in a "non-flying capacity" in the months for which his pay records were destroyed.

When I asked why the accounting service failed to reveal the destruction of the president's pay records until newspapers forced the revelation under the Freedom of Information Act, Still referred me to National Guard Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke.

Lt. Col. Krenke "very respectfully" informed me that "all questions concerning President Bush's pay records are being referred to the White House."

Meanwhile, I read that there's still a way to determine how many days Bush served on active duty in 1972 by using records kept by the Air Reserve Personnel Center, also here in Denver.

When I called the personnel center about getting hold of those records, a public affairs officer told me to speak to Dan Bartlett. Bartlett is the White House communications director.

Bartlett asked Bryan Whitman, the Defense Department's deputy spokesman, to talk to me.

The buck, it appears, never stops.

Whitman confirmed everything Still said. Whitman added that the missing records - from the first quarter of 1969 to the third quarter of 1972 - were logged by Social Security numbers. No one was sure which individuals were affected, Whitman said.

"It wasn't until there was a specific query" that anyone linked names with Social Security numbers, he explained.

As for the days Bush spent on active duty in 1972, Whitman passed me on to a colonel at the Pentagon who only wanted to be identified as a "spokesman."

But he assured me George W. Bush had accumulated enough days of service to meet his Air National Guard obligations in 1972.

Gosh, I hope so.

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