Robert B. Bluey | Staff Writer | Friday, September 10, 2004
Doubts about the authenticity of the documents spread across the Internet and cable news shows Thursday when several forensic document experts, typographers and retired military officers offered their analysis. Friday's newspapers also carried stories questioning the documents' authenticity.
Even the widow and son of the alleged author of the memos, the late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, questioned whether the documents were real. Killian's widow, Marjorie, called the records "a farce," according to The Washington Post, and his son, Gary, who retired from the Texas Air National Guard in 1991, told The Associated Press one unsigned document looked fake.
A memo dated May 4, 1972, claims that Bush refused to follow an order to undertake a medical examination. Another unsigned memo from May 19, 1972, suggests that Bush was "talking to someone upstairs" to get out of his duty with the Texas Air National Guard.
"It just wouldn't happen," Gary Killian told the AP. "The only thing that can happen when you keep secret files like that are bad things. ... No officer in his right mind would write a memo like that."
"I don't think there were any documents," Marjorie Killian added in a Washington Post article. "He was not a paper person."
Questions about the documents, which were the basis of Wednesday's "60 Minutes" program, prompted a swift reaction from the network.
"As a standard practice at CBS, each of the documents broadcast on '60 Minutes' was thoroughly investigated by independent experts and we are convinced of their authenticity," the network said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
In a subsequent interview with WorldNetDaily, CBS spokeswoman Kelli Edwards said, "CBS verified the authenticity of the documents by talking to individuals who had seen the documents at the time they were written. These individuals were close associates of Colonel Jerry Killian and confirm that the documents reflect his opinions at the time the documents were written."
The documents were released Wednesday night by the White House, which didn't question their accuracy but characterized them as "dirty politics," after obtaining them from CBS News. The network has refused to reveal the source of the documents.
Initial questions about the 32-year-old documents arose when two Internet blogs -- Power Line and Little Green Footballs -- noted some of the computer-like characteristics of the documents. Typographers who spoke to CNSNews.com confirmed some of the discrepancies.
According to Allan Haley, director of words and letters at Agfa Monotype in Wilmington, Mass., the documents couldn't have been produced on a typewriter because they contain the superscript "th" in "111th F.I.S." and apostrophes in words like "I'm" and "he's."
Those characters are native to current word processing programs. Microsoft Word, for instance, automatically changes the "th" after numbers to a superscript. Most typewriters, except perhaps the most high-end models, couldn't process such a character in 1972, typographers told CNSNews.com .
"The 'I'm' is set with an apostrophe," Haley added. "There were no apostrophes on typewriters. There were foot and inch marks that had to do double duty."
Another characteristic not typically found on typewriters in 1972 was a proportional typeface. Although some typewriter models included this feature, they were not widespread. Each of the documents is set in proportional type, meaning the letter "m" occupies a larger space than "i."
Strange military lingo
Former military officers and others with knowledge of military correspondence contacted CNSNews.com Thursday to present their own critique. Among the problems they cited:
* The documents are not on a standard letterhead. Instead, they feature a typewritten and centered address with a post office box rather than an actual street address of the squadron. The address is P.O. Box 34567, which coincidentally includes five consecutive numbers.
* Dates in the letters -- "04 May 1972" and "14 May, 1972" -- are inconsistent and do not follow military form. The military prefers the following example, according to ex-officers: 4 May 72. It doesn't include a zero preceding the date or a comma following the month.
* The lines "MEMORANDUM FOR:" and "SUBJECT:" that begin the May 4, 1972, document, weren't officially used in the 1970s. According to one retired military officer, the correct format then was most likely "REPLY TO ATTN OF:" then "SUBJECT:" and finally "TO:" preceding the text of the message.
* Bush's name was listed in the memo as "1st Lt. George W. Bush." But other military documents, including those posted on Sen. John Kerry's website use a different format. Bush's name would have likely appeared as "1LT Bush, GW" or "1LT G Bush."
* There shouldn't be disparities in the May 4, 1972, letter such as, "111 F.I.S." and "111th F.I.S.," according to ex-military officers. Also, the acronym "F.I.S.," which stands for Fighter Intercept Squadron, shouldn't have included periods.
* The signature block with Killian's name lists his rank as "Lt. Colonel," when in reality most military commanders abbreviated that title as "LTC" or "Lt. Col.," according to retired officers. The signature block also includes the word "Commander" when "Commanding" was the preferred reference.
Source of the letter
Despite the attempts of news organizations to obtain the source of the "60 Minutes" documents, CBS News has refused to budge. The Washington Post reported Thursday and Friday that the network wouldn't disclose where the documents came from.
Gary Killian told the AP the documents didn't come from his family, even though an article on the CBS News website said they were retrieved from Jerry Killian's "personal file."
One anti-Bush group distanced itself from the controversy Thursday amid suspicion that it was a possible source of the purported memos.
The group Texans for Truth, which has received support and assistance from MoveOn.org, was formed in late August and has created a television ad critical of Bush. A spokesman for MoveOn.org said the left-wing group hadn't supplied CBS News with the documents.
In an article published Thursday by The Weekly Standard, author Stephen F. Hayes wrote that CBS News could clear up the controversy if it provided the name of the expert who authenticated the documents, offered outside experts the opportunity to review original copies of the documents and disclosed the source of the documents.
But, as the magazine reported, CBS News spokeswoman Edwards was "overwhelmed with phone calls" Thursday. She said the network wouldn't provide any further information beyond its statement.
See Earlier Story:
'60 Minutes' Documents on Bush Might Be Fake (Sept. 9, 2004)
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