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Questions mount on Guard memos’ authenticity
A handwriting expert says the two signatures on purported Texas National Guard memos aired by CBS News this week are not those of President Bush’s squadron commander, as asserted by “60 Minutes.”
Until now, press scrutiny of the memos supposedly written by the late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian focused on the finding that the documents were, in the opinion of experts, produced by computers not yet in use in the early 1970s.
Eugene P. Hussey, a certified forensic document examiner in Washington state, said yesterday there is another flaw in the CBS memos. Mr. Hussey studied the known signatures of Col. Killian on Air Force documents, and two signatures on documents dated 1972 and 1973 that aired on “60 Minutes” Wednesday night.
“It is my limited opinion that Killian did not sign those documents,” Mr. Hussey told The Washington Times. He said he uses the phrase “limited opinion” because he does not have the original documents. He, like other experts interviewed by the press, relied on copies of originals first obtained by CBS. The White House then distributed copies of the memos in what is said was the interest of full disclosure.
The White House did not challenge or vouch for their authenticity, and CBS continued to stand by its story.
Dan Rather, who anchored the original broadcast, last night defended his reporting during the “CBS Evening News,” calling skeptics of the documents “partisan politicians.”
He produced on air an document expert, Marcel Mately, on whom CBS relied to authenticate the documents. CBS did not say whether the expert was paid. He said he believes Col. Killian’s signatures on the questionable documents and the known documents are the same.
Questions about the memo’s authenticity come as Democrats have renewed attacks on Mr. Bush’s National Guard record and promised to make it part of their daily campaign to recapture the White House.
The memos, if authentic, are harmful to the president because in them Col. Killian purportedly states that 1st Lt. George W. Bush refused an order to take a physical and was therefore dropped from flight status.
It had been known that Mr. Bush, then an F-102 fighter pilot, had let his flight status drop in 1972 after four years in the Guard because, the White House said, he planned to shift his Guard assignment to a different unit in Alabama while he worked on a senatorial campaign. It had never been reported before the CBS report that he refused an order to get a physical. Instead, the White House has said he worked out the arrangement with superiors.
Mr. Hussey agreed with experts who say the CBS documents are “computer generated,” meaning they could not have been produced in the early 1970s, as dated, because such word processors did not exit. Various network TV stations and newspapers quoted experts as saying the documents were written on a computer using Microsoft Word.
The Times noticed differences in the two sets of signatures and asked Mr. Hussey to do an evaluation.
The Times provided Mr. Hussey with copies of the CBS documents, which he dubbed Q-1-3, and records known to have been signed by Col. Killian, (K-1-3).
“It is my opinion based on the examination of the Q-1 through Q-3 and K-1 through K-3, that Jerry B. Killian probably did not sign his name to Q-1 and his initial to Q-3,” Mr. Hussey said in a signed letter to The Times. “As to the authenticity of the CBS documents, that is Q-1 through Q-3, [they] appear to be product of a computer, rather than a typewriter.”
The press has quoted experts saying the CBS memos appear to be written in Times Roman, a font set not in use in the early 1970s and one that is contained in Microsoft Word, a widely used word processing system. For example, the CBS documents contain a superscript “th” that is automatically used by Microsoft Word and that was in very limited use in the early 1970s.
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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