IF IT LOOKS LIKE A DUCK?
by David Sisler
Last week, Dan Rather and CBS News released documents which allege that President George W. Bush, while he was serving in the Texas Air National Guard, received preferential treatment, and that certain officers “sugarcoated” reports in order to protect the young lieutenant.
Almost since the release of the documents – copies of the documents, actually – people from all over the political spectrum have questioned their authenticity.
When The Washington Post raised several issues Dan Rather said, “Until someone shows me definitive proof that they are not, I don’t see any reason to carry on a conversation with the professional rumor mill.” Rather questioned the critics’ “motivation” and angrily challenged them to prove the documents were forgeries.
On Thursday, September 9, Matt Drudge, quoting an unnamed CBS source said that Dan Rather, “will personally correct the record on-air, if need be.”
On Friday, September 10, Dan Rather said (quoting from “Dan Rather’s Stand,” by Wolf Blitzer, CNN), “This story is true. This story is true. The questions raised in the story are serious and legitimate questions.” Rather said the possibility of issuing any kind of recant or apology was “not even discussed. Nor should it be.”
Well, Mr. Rather says that we should prove the documents to be forgeries for him. So, let’s see what is being said.
From Michael Dobbs and Howard Kurtz at The Washington Post comes word that Marcel Matley, the lead expert retained by CBS News to examine disputed memos from President Bush’s former squadron commander in the National Guard, made no attempt to authenticate the documents. CBS claimed that Matley had vouched for the authenticity of four memos. He vouched for only one signature.
“There’s no way that I, as a document expert, can authenticate them,” Matley said. And he is Dan Rather’s key witness.
Document experts state that the type style and formatting characteristics viewed on the released material – copies of copies of copies, one examiner stated – are consistent with computer-generated documents, i.e. modern-day word processing programs.
In an attempt to rebut the growing claims that the documents are forged, CBS released an authenticated Bush document from 1968 that included a small “th” next to the numbers “111” as proof that Guard typewriters of the day were capable of producing superscripts, but as Joseph M. Newcomer, Windows programming author said, the document aired by CBS News does not contain a superscript because the top of the “th” character does not rise above the level of the type – the definition of a superscript.
“I am personally 100 percent sure that they are fake,” Newcomer said.
One of CBS’ documents makes reference to Col. Walter B. “Buck” Staudt, and pressure he allegedly brought on Lt. Col. Jerry Killian to protect then Lt. George W. Bush. The problem with that document is its date – August 18, 1973. Staudt retired from the Guard 18 months earlier.
Retired Col. Earl Lively, director Air National Guard operations for the Texas state headquarters during 1972 and 1973 was quoted by Pete Slover of The Seattle Times as saying Staudt “wasn’t on the scene” after retirement, and that CBS’ claim that he bullied Lt. Col. Killian makes no sense.
“He couldn’t bully them,” Lively said. “He wasn’t in the Guard. He couldn’t affect their promotions. Once you’re gone from the Guard, you don’t have any authority.”
In the earlier referenced Washington Post story, Thomas Phinney, program manager for fonts for the Adobe company in Seattle, says “fairly extensive testing” convinced him that the fonts and formatting used in the CBS documents could not have been produced by IBM typewriters used in 1972.
Retired Maj. Gen. Bobby W. Hodges, cited by senior CBS officials as the network’s “trump card” in verifying the documents said he was “misled” by CBS and believes the documents to be forgeries. Maj. Gen. Hodges had not seen the documents; they had only been read to him over the telephone.
Sandra Ramsey Lines, a document examiner from Paradise Valley, AZ, was cited in an editorial by William Safire as saying “she could testify in court that, beyond a reasonable doubt, her opinion was the memos were written on a computer.”
William Flynn, a forensic document expert widely considered the nation’s top analyst of computer-generated documents, said, “These sure look like forgeries.” Stephen F. Hayes, writing for The Weekly Standard quotes Flynn further: “I would say it looks very likely that these documents could not have existed” in the early 1970's when they were allegedly written. Flynn has 35 years of experience in police crime labs and in private practice.
Phil Bouffard, a documents examiner from Cleveland, said the font used in the CBS documents was widely used in word processing programs, but was not common on typewriters.
Well, what about Lt. Col. Jerry Killian whose documents Mr. Rather and CBS are defending and flaunting as their alleged proof that President George W. Bush did not fulfill his military service?
Rufus Martin, who was the personnel chief in Lt. Col. Killian’s unit at the time believes the documents are fake. “They look like forgeries to me,” he said. “I don’t think Killian would do that, and I knew him for 17 years.”
Marjorie Connell, Lt. Col. Killian’s widow, described the documents as “a farce.” She told Michael Dobbs of The Washington Post that she was with her husband until the day he died in 1984 and he did not “keep files.”
CBS contacted her for comment, but they did not ask her to authenticate the records.
Lt. Col. Killian’s son, Gary Killian, told ABC News Radio that he doubts his father wrote the documents. “It was not the nature of my father to keep private files like this, nor would it have been in his own interest to do so.”
During a 1974 exchange between President Richard Nixon and Dan Rather over Watergate issues, Mr. Nixon asked, “Are you running for something?”
Mr. Rather replied, “No sir, are you?”
Thirty years later, in the face of overwhelming evidence that his documents are forgeries and his story is therefore false, CBS’ chief talking head needs to be asked once again: “Are you running for something, Mr. Rather?”
Copyright 2004 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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