AP Sues for Bush Military Records
WASHINGTON – The Associated Press sued the Pentagon (search) and the Air Force on Tuesday, seeking access to all records of George W. Bush's (search) military service during the Vietnam War.
Filed in federal court in New York, where The AP is headquartered, the lawsuit seeks access to a copy of Bush's microfilmed personnel file from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (search) in Austin.
The White House says the government has already released all the records of Bush's military service.
Controversy surrounds Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard (search) because it is unclear from the record what duties he performed for the military when he was working on the political campaign of a U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama.
There are questions as to whether the file provided to the news media earlier this year is complete, says the lawsuit, adding that these questions could possibly be answered by reviewing a copy of the microfilm of Bush's personnel file in the Texas archives.
The Air National Guard of the United States, a federal entity, has control of the microfilm, which should be disclosed in its entirety under the Freedom of Information Act (search), the lawsuit says.
The White House has yet to respond to a request by the AP in April asking the president to sign a written waiver of his right to keep records of his military service confidential. Bush gave an oral waiver in a TV appearance that preceded the White House's release this year of materials concerning his National Guard service.
The government "did not expedite their response ... they did not produce the file within the time required by law, and they will not now estimate when the file might be produced or even confirm that an effort has been initiated to retrieve a copy from the microfilm at the Texas archives," the lawsuit says.
In the absence of any privacy objection by the president and in light of the importance of the file's release in advance of the November election, says the lawsuit, AP seeks a court order to compel the release of records "that are being unlawfully withheld from the public."
The released records were from the Texas Air National Guard at Camp Mabry and the Defense Financing Accounting Service (search) in Denver.
Under Texas law, a copy of military personnel files of those serving in the Texas Air National Guard must be retained on microfilm at the Texas archives.
The lawsuit says that no one has looked at any of the Texas Air National Guard records maintained at the state archives since 1996.
Responding to AP's request, the Texas Air National Guard concluded that Bush's file was a federal record under control of the U.S. Air National Guard.
When the government did not produce the documents, AP appealed to the Pentagon, saying that by law, the microfilm copy should have been produced within 20 days. The Pentagon said it could not respond within the legally required period.