Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Signed That Waiver Yet, Mr. President? 

Via Corrente: Last week, you will recall, the Pentagon claimed that microfilmed payroll records from the President's stint in the Texas Air National Guard had "just crumbled" back in 1996 or 1997. Not long afterward, Holden of Eschaton spotted a seeming contradiction. Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post had recently said, in a column about the AP's lawsuit demanding access to the records: "Associated Press Assistant General Counsel Dave Tomlin told me yesterday that AP reporters began trying to get the documents back in February, but hit roadblock after roadblock. Tomlin said the AP has been informed that the microfilm in question does indeed exist."

Now Froomkin steps forward to clear up some of the confusion. To begin with, we're talking about two sets of microfilm:
The microfilm that the Pentagon reported destroyed was housed at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Denver and consisted only of a few months of payroll records -- albeit some of them from during the hotly contested third quarter of 1972.

The Associated Press lawsuit that Tomlin filed is for the microfilm of Bush's entire personnel file from the Texas Air National Guard. Those records are in Austin.

The Denver microfilm was the subject of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request -- and the Austin lawsuit was filed in response to the denial of a FOIA request.

But they were different FOIA requests.

"There have been numerous FOIAs," Tomlin told me yesterday. "The lawsuit in particular is focused on microfilm that we believe to be in the possession of the State of Texas. . . . Not just payroll records, but the entire personnel file."

In fact, Tomlin said, "There could be payroll records in there that might duplicate the lost records. . . . But we're not sure."

Here's a copy of the AP lawsuit.
Froomkin thus confirms Paul Lukasiak's remarks in the comments section of this post at The Poor Man. Lukasiak, author of the ongoing AWOL Project, claims that even if the missing records never surface, documents already released by the White House demonstrate that the TXANG regarded Bush as a deserter -- IF you know how to sift through the arcana. (Be warned: Lukasiak's site is an incredible resource, but it's damned near impossible to navigate.)

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