One section of the material on John Tower that has attracted attention of senators considering his nomination as defense secretary concerns two visits the former senator made to Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin, Tex., in 1976-78, when he allegedly appeared to be drunk and fondled two women, according to informed sources.
Retired Air Force Sgt. Bob Jackson first told the Senate Armed Services Committee and later the FBI of the two incidents at Bergstrom. Jackson, who was the noncommissioned officer in charge of base public relations and VIP tours, said he observed both incidents.
During the two tours of the base, Tower “had liquor on his breath and he had trouble talking and was staggering out of the car and up the steps,” according to Jackson’s account.
In one incident, Jackson told the FBI, when Tower was touring the office of the base chief of maintenance, “a secretary started to get up and Tower put his hand on her shoulder as she started to rise. His hand slid off her shoulder and onto her breast. She drew back and nothing was said. There was no great caressing or fondling. It was just untoward and unseemly.”
Reports Hand on Rump
In the second incident, “an enlisted female crew chief on an F-4 aircraft was standing at attention or parade rest and Tower was told her name and put his hand on her shoulder, and it traveled down, resting right on her rump for a short period of time,” according to Jackson’s account.
Jackson told the FBI that three or four other military personnel witnessed the incidents and that they discussed them afterward. One person felt Tower was not out of line, but a captain identified by name in the report said that Tower “was getting a free feel.”
When reached at his home Wednesday in Missouri, Jackson, 54, an intelligence technician who retired from the Air Force in 1978, confirmed his descriptions. “I stand by my statement to the FBI,” he said. “All I know is what I saw.”
Jackson added: “Had she been my daughter, well, he is too little to hit--that would have put me down to his level. But, if I did what I wanted (to do) at the time, you’d be talking to me now from Leavenworth.” Leavenworth, Kan., is the site of a military prison.
Wrote Letter to Nunn
According to sources, Jackson first made his allegations in a letter to Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and later repeated them to the FBI.
(An FBI official confirmed to The Times Wednesday evening that the bureau had been informed of Jackson’s allegations but said the incidents had not been probed in depth because they had happened so long ago.
(“The investigation regarding drinking and alcohol abuse focused principally on the 1980s,” Milton Ahlerich, the FBI’s assistant director for congressional and public affairs, said.
(After Jackson’s allegations came to the FBI’s attention, bureau agents “discussed it with the White House and Chairman Nunn,” Ahlerich said. Nunn, he added, “raised no objection” to the bureau’s decision not to pursue the allegation extensively because “it fell outside the focus of the investigation that he wanted.”)
Jackson said he had been told by the FBI agent who interviewed him that the bureau had another witness who corroborated his account, but that could not be independently confirmed Wednesday. One source who has read the Tower material said he was not aware of any refutation of Jackson’s account.
A spokesman for Tower refused to comment on Jackson’s statements, and the White House had no comment.