Is GW Bush Hiding His SPN Code?

One of the more mysterious aspects of the GW Bush National Guard dust up is that presumably the ex-1st Lieutenant could clear it up any time by releasing his service records. And as Bush supporters are fond of saying, he did get an 'honorable discharge' didn't he? So how bad could it be? By not releasing the information, Mr. Bush makes the speculation all but inevitable—might there be something ugly tucked in there somewhere?

The problem, of course, is given what has been released (and leaving aside the known scandal to which we are all desensitized of how Bush got into the Guard), the only visible problem is gaps, and the issue of how they got papered over. The public portions of the military record show no signs of anything discreditable except Not Showing Up when obligated to do so. (Various inferences about why are of course possible — lack of caring, fear of drug tests, inebriation, etc., but again these are old news and long ago and not likely to be that damaging politically.) So what could it possibly be?

I got to thinking of an old footnote in an old article of mine on the Clipper Chip:

In the 1970s the Pentagon admitted that the Army was stamping discharge papers with 530 different “SPN” code numbers that gave savvy employers derogatory information about servicemen, including some with honorable discharges. The codes did not appear on discharge papers issued to servicemen but were available to employers who asked for more detailed records. Classifications included “drug abuse,” “disloyal or subversive security program,” “homosexual tendency,” “unsuitability—apathy, defective attitudes and inability to expend effort constructively,” and “unsuitability—enuresis [bed wetting].” See Dana A. Schmidt, Pentagon Using Drug-Abuse Code, N.Y. Times, Mar. 1, 1972, at 11. Receipt of antiwar literature sufficed to be classified as disloyal or subversive. See Peter Kihss, Use of Personal- Characterization Coding on Military Discharges Is Assailed, N.Y. Times, Sept. 30, 1973, at 46. In response to public pressure, the Pentagon abandoned the program and reissued discharge papers without the codes. See Pentagon Abolishes Code on Discharges of Military Misfits, N.Y. Times, Mar. 23, 1974, at 64; Uncoded Discharge Papers Are Offered to Veterans, N.Y. Times, April 28, 1974, at 33.

From this, it looks like the Pentagon stopped using these codes in early 1974, at least for the Army. Phil Carter reports that the National Guard used an equivalent, but slightly different, set of discharge forms from the Army's. I wonder if, like the Army, the National Guard also had derogatory codes attached even to “honorable” discharges, and if so, what they were, and when they stopped using them?

GW Bush's discharge date on his NGB 22 (the Guard's equivalent of the Army's DD 214) is Oct '73 — even before the Army stopped using its codes. Could this be what all the secrecy is about?

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6 Responses to Is GW Bush Hiding His SPN Code?

  1. Matthew says:

    I almost don’t want to know what that would be because I think it would be even more depressing. This is a guy who went apparently went AWOL during National Guard service, admitted he wouldn’t have passed a security check run by / during his father’s administration, and so on. Do you really want to find out something worse about the guy in charge who won’t listen to people with whom he disagrees?

  2. Skipper Steely says:

    Did you see how nervous the press secretary was early this week when quized about what was released and what was still confusing–like moving his service to Alabama? I would check each social event that was going on in Harvard at this time. Was he not in school then? I bet you could slowly begin to trace down where he was on each of the weekends he was supposed to report. I was not familiar that you could do your duty at odd times. Never heard that, but I was forced to join the regular Air Force. Never got the opportunity to be in the Guard or Reserves–not enough pull! I would really resent anyone who was lucky enough to obtain a Guard slot, then not show up! If the commanding officer says he never saw Bush, that’s who I would believe, not the girl friend.

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  4. joy mcclellan says:

    I find it hilarious that Bush was given a grade in the 25th percentile for aptitute for the job he was applying for, and further down on the same paper he was given a 95 for “officer material”…’s like reasoning that a medical student who barely passed would be vaulted over the heads of those students who manifested brillance in their studies and their work. Joy Mcclellan, former USAF Nurse Corps

  5. Anne-Marie Carter says:

    I just received a long nasty letter (e-mail) full of malicious accusations about John Kerry, asking me to forwad it, but naturally I hit the delete button. Someone, please, send me something that shows the true disgusting things that Bush has done in his dumb life, so I can forward it to the brainless Bush followers that sent me that trash. Thanks!!!

  6. jim says:

    Just read on the indispensable
    page, that Bush’s old national guard unclear discharge (pun intended) papers, have “PTI 961”
    near the end. The Dems are offering $1,000 to the person who can correctly identify what the hell that means.

    So, who wants to be paid ???


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