Most of the world has accepted the fact that CBS used forged documents to impugn President Bush’s credibility on a September 8 “60 Minutes II” broadcast. But anchorman Dan Rather and his producers are still standing by their story and the apparently forged documents.
“Everything I’ve seen makes me completely confident in the documents, in the reporting, in the story, in what we have done,” Josh Howard, Rather’s executive producer for “60 Minutes,” told the New York Times September 15.
But facts developed by other major news organizations, ranging from the Washington Post to ABC News, made Rather’s and CBS’s continued stonewalling unbelievable.
Here is a brief chronicle of what these news organizations uncovered about CBS’s reporting in the week following Rather’s claim on “60 Minutes II” that “new documents” proved that Air National Guard Lt. George W. Bush had violated a direct order from his commander to report for a flight physical.
CBS Experts Defect
Rather claimed a document expert authenticated the memos. “We consulted a handwriting analyst and document expert who believes the material is authentic,” said Rather. But he did not name any document expert and said nothing about CBS consulting experts who raised questions about the authenticity of the documents. Since the “60 Minutes” broadcast, two document experts hired by CBS to look at the purported Killian memos have pointedly said they did not authenticate them. A third, who authenticated only Killian’s signature, significantly qualified what that authentication meant.
Court-certified document examiner Emily Will of North Carolina, hired by CBS to look at the documents, told the network she had serious problems with the signatures and typeface. “I found five significant differences in the questioned handwriting,” she told ABC News on September 14. “And I found problems with the printing itself, as to whether it could have been produced by a typewriter.”
Will warned CBS about presenting the documents on the air. “I told them that all the questions I was asking them at that time, which was Tuesday night, they were going to be asked by hundreds of other document experts on Thursday if they ran the story,” Will told ABC News. “. . . I did not feel that they wanted to investigate it very deeply.”
Will says she presented her objections in both an email and phone call to CBS. “She said she listed five concerns in an e-mail three days before last Wednesday’s [CBS] broadcast and that in a call to a producer the day before the program, ‘I repeated all my objections as strongly as I could.'” (The Washington Post, September 15)
The Washington Post reported on September 15 that certified document examiner Linda James of Texas, also hired by CBS, said she suspected the documents were produced on a computer. “Linda James said that she told CBS the documents ‘had problems’ and that she had questioned ‘whether they were produced on a computer.’ Asked whether CBS took her concerns seriously, James said: ‘Evidently not.'”
James told ABC News: “I did not authenticate anything. And I don’t want it to be misunderstood that I did. And that’s why I have come forth to talk about it because I don’t want anyone to think that I did authenticate these documents.”
Marcel Matley, another document expert hired by CBS, said he only authenticated Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian’s signature, not the documents themselves. “‘There’s no way that I, as a document expert, can authenticate them,’ Marcel Matley told the Washington Post in a September 14 story. “The main reason, he said, is that they are ‘copies’ that are ‘far removed’ from the originals.”
Matley conceded to the New York Times in a September 14 story that it was possible Killian’s signature could have been pasted onto a forgery. “Asked if the signature could have been lifted from an official document by Colonel Killian and pasted onto forgeries,” the Times reported, “Mr. Matley said: ‘Sure. But we can’t draw a conclusion from a possibility.'”
A Washington Post report on September 14 disputed CBS’s claim that its documents matched authentic National Guard documents from the era: “[A] detailed comparison by The Washington Post of memos obtained by CBS News with authenticated documents on Bush’s National Guard service reveals dozens of inconsistencies, ranging from conflicting military terminology to different word-processing techniques. The analysis shows that half a dozen Killian memos released earlier by the military were written with a standard typewriter using different formatting techniques from those characteristic of computer-generated documents.”
A word-processing expert told the Post the formatting of the CBS documents was exactly consistent with Microsoft Word: “‘I am personally 100% sure that they are fake,’ said Joseph M. Newcomer, author of several books on Windows programming, who worked on electronic typesetting techniques in the early 1970s. Newcomer said he had produced virtually exact replicas of the CBS documents using Microsoft Word formatting and the Times New Roman font.'”
Citing Newcomer and others, the Post questioned the proportional spacing of the CBS memos and the superscripting of the “th” appended to certain numbers. “Of more than 100 records made available by the 147th Group and the Texas Air National Guard, none used the proportional spacing techniques characteristic of the CBS documents. Nor did they use a superscripted ‘th’ in expressions such as ‘147th Group’….Rather displayed an authenticated Bush document from 1968 that included a small ‘th’ next to the numbers ‘111’ as proof that Guard typewriters were capable of producing superscripts. In fact, say Newcomer and other experts, the document aired by CBS News does not contain a superscript, because the top of the ‘th’ character is at the same level as the rest of the type.”
A font expert, the Post reported, rebutted CBS’s claim that 1972 typewriters could have produced the type in the memos. “Thomas Phinney, program manager for fonts for the Adobe Company in Seattle, which helped to develop the modern Times New Roman font . . . said ‘fairly extensive testing’ had convinced him that the fonts and formatting used in the CBS documents could not have been produced by the most sophisticated IBM typewriters in use in 1972, including the Selectric and the Executive. He said the two systems used fonts of different widths.”
The New York Times also cited a former IBM official and typewriter historian who disputed CBS’s claim that a 1972 IBM typewriter could have produced the documents. “Robert A. Rahenkamp, a former IBM manager who wrote a scholarly history on its typewriters for a company journal in 1981, said, ‘I’m not aware that we had any superscript technologies back in those days’ on standard proportional space typewriters,” said the Times on September 11.
A document expert consulted by the Associated Press said she could testify in court that the memos were written on a computer: “Document examiner Sandra Ramsey Lines of Paradise Valley, Ariz., who examined the documents for the AP, said she was ‘virtually certain’ they were generated by computer. Lines said that meant she could testify in court that, beyond a reasonable doubt, her opinion was that the memos were written on a computer.”
Killian’s former secretary, Marian Carr Knox, told the Dallas Morning News in a September 15 story that she did not type the documents and that she thought they were fake. “‘These are not real,’ she told the News after examining copies of the disputed memos. ‘They’re not what I typed, and I would have typed them for him.'” The News reported: “She said the typeface on the documents did not match either of the two typewriters that she used during her time at the Guard. She identified those machines as a mechanical Olympia, which was replaced by an IBM Selectric in the early 1970s.”
The Washington Times discovered that the CBS memos differed from all authenticated Killian memos in not following official Air Force style when identifying Killian’s rank and affiliation: “Thus, in signing a memo, the ‘Lt’ in the rank of lieutenant colonel is not supposed to have a period at the end. Mr. Bush’s commander, the late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, followed that regulation in every signed document released by the White House in February and reviewed by the Washington Times. But the contested CBS memos, dated 1972 and 1973, contain a period after ‘Lt’ on both signed documents.”
The Washington Post also concluded the CBS memos did not identify Killian consistently: “In memos previously released by the Pentagon or the White House, Killian signed his rank ‘Lt Col’ or ‘Lt Colonel, TexANG,’ in a single line after his name without periods. In the CBS memos, the ‘Lt Colonel’ is on the next line, sometimes with a period but without the customary reference to TexANG, for Texas Air National Guard.”
One CBS document gives the wrong address for George W. Bush. “This address was used for many years by Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush,” the Washington Post reported on September 14. “National Guard documents suggest that the younger Bush stopped using that address in 1970 when he moved into an apartment, and did not use it again until late 1973 or 1974.”
The Dallas Morning News reported on September 12 that Col. Walter “Buck” Staudt, alleged in one of the CBS documents to be pressuring Killian to “sugar coat” Bush’s record, had long been retired at the time the document was allegedly written: “The man named in a disputed memo as exerting pressure to ‘sugar coat’ President Bush’s military record left the Texas Air National Guard a year and a half before the memo was supposedly written, his own service record shows. An order obtained by the Dallas Morning News shows that Col. Walter ‘Buck’ Staudt was honorably discharged on March 1, 1972.”