Trust, But Verify

Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., seen in this 1960s photo, receives a military decoration during the Vietnam War. Kerry was awarded the Bronze Star less than a month after earning a Silver Star for beaching his boat and jumping ashore to chase down and kill a guerrilla who had a rocket launcher pointed at the Americans. After being awarded three Purple Hearts for minor injuries, Kerry's request for reassignment stateside six months early was granted.
This column was written by Dean Barnett.
During the most recent presidential campaign, various antagonists repeatedly urged John Kerry to sign a Standard Form 180; by signing Form 180, Kerry would have released the entirety of his military records for public consumption. The senator stubbornly refused these pleas. (Actually he "stubbornly refused" in a uniquely Kerry-esque manner. While he kept promising to sign the form and get the information out there, he never quite managed to do so.)

During Kerry's appearance on Meet the Press almost four months ago, Tim Russert once again broached the issue of Kerry signing a Form 180. As he did during the campaign, Kerry promised to sign the form and then spent the ensuing 100+ days taking no action on that front.

But last week finally brought deliverance for those anxious to exhume the carcass of Kerry's political career. According to the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times, Kerry signed a Form 180 and his precious military records were issued to them and them alone. Since the released records revealed no new information (other than the fact that Kerry had been something of a dullard during his time at Yale), one would have thought the issue would be closed. In actuality, the interesting dimensions of the story were just beginning to reveal themselves.

In order to follow this tale, it's important to be familiar with some of the minutiae surrounding Form 180.

First, there's the matter of logistics. When one signs a Form 180, he specifies the party or parties to whom the documents will be released. In Kerry's case, the specified parties were apparently the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times, two newspapers not known for their hostility towards liberal politicians. Other than the parties you specify on your Form 180, no one else gets the records.

Next, there's the issue of completeness. One can sign a Form 180, but doing so doesn't necessarily mean that you intend to have all of your military records released. If you follow the link and look at an actual Form 180, you'll see an entry for "other information and/or documents requested." Below this point, a veteran can limit the information request in any way he sees fit.

So, did Kerry limit the scope of his release? As if answering those who might be inclined to cynicism about their story, the Boston Globe was rather unambiguous in characterizing Kerry's request. Reporter Michael Kranish's story put it this way: "On May 20, Kerry signed a document called Standard Form 180, authorizing the Navy to send an 'undeleted' copy of his 'complete military service record and medical record' to the Globe."