In a September 8 broadcast, Dan Rather of CBS’s “60 Minutes” used what he represented as authentic Texas Air National Guard documents from the early 1970s in an effort to prove that President Bush disobeyed an order from his Guard commander to undergo a medical examination and that a senior officer had tried to persuade Bush’s commander to “sugar coat” Bush’s record.
Numerous document experts and one key witness have since rejected the CBS memos as fakes, probably created recently on Microsoft Word in an attempt to hurt Bush’s re-election prospects.
Title 18, section 1001 of the U.S. Code reads: “[W]hoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully . . . makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry . . . shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.”
In a September 22 column about the forgeries, New York Times columnist William Safire argued that Chapter 63, Section 1343 of the U.S. Code could have an application in this case: “Whoever, having devised . . . any scheme or artifice to defraud . . . transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings . . . for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. . . .”
HUMAN EVENTS Assistant Editor David Freddoso asked senators this week if they thought a criminal investigation should be conducted to discover who had forged the documents apparently intended to take down the President of the United States
Insofar as the forging of government documents is a crime, should federal authorities be investigating the apparent forgery of the documents on President Bush’s National Guard service that appeared on CBS “60 Minutes” two weeks ago?
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R.-VA.): If there’s any criminal activity, that could be prosecuted. You don’t need to have a federal hearing for criminal activity. There are plenty of crimes that occur, and we don’t have a hearing. Insofar as CBS or Dan Rather using this information without checking it for its authenticity, the most telling aspect is that ABC and NBC and CNN, FOX and all the rest of them [didn’t use it]–and I don’t think they shopped it to you–
ALLEN: But they might have to the New York Times—
They did to USA Today, but they didn’t run with them.
ALLEN: Doesn’t that tell you something? They actually cared about the accuracy of them. Whoever forged it and so forth, that will have to be investigated. I don’t know the laws on this, but forgery is a criminal matter. Whatever agencies, whether state or federal, ought to do their jobs. But I don’t see any role for Congress to get involved in this matter. It is something that is getting sufficient coverage, scrutiny, as it is. It will be a story we’ll want to watch, but watch as opposed to participate in.
Should federal authorities be investigating the apparent forgery of the documents that appeared on CBS “60 Minutes” on Bush’s National Guard service?
SEN. KIT BOND (R.-MO.): That should be for the Department of Justice. I don’t think Congress should have a role in it.
I want to ask you about this whole CBS documents controversy that took place two weeks ago. William Safire, in the Times, has written on the possible criminal aspect of this, if government documents were forged. Should federal authorities be investigating that, in your opinion?
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D.-WIS.): I’m not ready to comment on that.
This whole controversy surrounding the National Guard documents: Considering that forgery of government documents is a federal crime, should federal authorities be investigating the apparent forgery of the documents that appeared on CBS “60 Minutes” two weeks ago?
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D.-FLA.): I frankly don’t know enough about the federal laws on forgery of documents to have an informed judgment. Politically, I think we’ve spent enormously too much time dealing with issues of the 1970s when we ought to be dealing with issues of the 21st Century.
But should we send in the FBI–if it’s a crime, should we pursue it? Or some people have also talked about congressional involvement on the House side.
GRAHAM: If the purpose of a hearing is to have the Congress consider a law change, then that’s our responsibility. If the purpose of a hearing is to find out if a crime has been committed, then that’s law enforcement . . . The fundamental issue is, are the allegations true, even though the source of the allegations may be a forgery. The New York Times yesterday had a story about George Bush which basically said all the things that were in those documents–not taking the physical, not showing up in Alabama, quitting the guard prematurely–they were all factually correct. If that is the case, I think it would be better for all sides to just move on and start talking about how can we deal with the war on terrorism.
The DNC launched this “Operation Fortunate Son” about Bush–to look at his Guard service, et cetera. It comes at a time when Kerry’s trying to define himself and he’s had a hard time doing it so far, and some people would say it’s distracted from him. Was it a mistake from the party’s perspective to try to talk about this?
GRAHAM: I think the nation and the candidates would be better served by focusing the last six weeks of this election on things that people care about and have some ability to influence for the future. Nobody’s going to go back and reverse the Vietnam record of either of these candidates.
Insofar as forgery is a federal crime, should federal authorities be investigating the apparent forgery of the documents on President Bush’s National Guard service that appeared on CBS “60 Minutes” two weeks ago?
SEN. ZELL MILLER (D.-GA.): I would think so, yes. To see if a federal crime has been committed, certainly.
Should federal authorities be investigating the apparent forgery of the documents on President Bush’s National Guard service that appeared on CBS “60 Minutes” two weeks ago?
SEN. BEN NELSON (D.-NEB.): You know, it would be about as difficult to pull that off without its appearing to be totally partisan and political as it would be to investigate how Bob Novak released James Wilson’s wife’s name.
They are investigating that, though, senator.
NELSON: Well, if it takes as long to investigate one as it does the other, will they both just dry up? That’s the question. One has a question of potentially, violation of the law. I don’t know if the other one involves a violation of the law.
Forgery of government documents–I think it’s 18 US 1001, something like that–five years maximum prison sentence.
NELSON: Perhaps they should investigate it. I’m just saying it’s going to be very difficult not to be totally partisan or political. I don’t know who would investigate it–would it be Congress, or would it be someone through the Department of Justice?
Do you think if it is a violation of the law, though, that does require the FBI to get involved, regardless of what people might say about political motivations?
NELSON: If you violate the law, I think you have to face the consequences of that kind of a violation, quite candidly. But as far as Congress investigating it and having hearings, I think that would be about as productive in the case of Bob Novak as it would in the case of this. But if there are questions about the violation of the law, then it ought to be looked at.