Monday, January 17, 2005

“[N]o one had provided persuasive evidence that the documents were not authentic.” — Dan Rather

“[T]he Panel stresses that it is making no findings as to the authenticity of the Killian documents;… it may never be possible for anyone to authenticate or discredit the documents.” — Report of the 60 Minutes independent panel

It’s time to drive a stake into this continuing saga less it become the new grassy knoll for the left-wing pundits and blogosphere. I accept the challenge.

While the public debate has exposed these creative forgeries by focusing on the peculiarities of type fonts and signatures, the fatal flaw is in the inconceivability of the documents themselves. While a doctoral dissertation could be written (and probably will) on the issue, space constrains us to the most salient points. Thus we will take just one of these famous memos and prove it to be a fake. By extrapolation, one could take that to the remaining five when editorial space becomes available.

The selected memo is that dated May 4, 1972, wherein the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian orders 1st Lt. Bush to report for a flight physical not later than May 14. This memo is the most expository of the memo forgeries for several reasons. First, while the other five memos may be considered Mr. Killian’s memos to self, and thus personal musings never intended for distribution, this particular memo is posited as a direct order to 1st Lt. Bush, mailed to his (wrong) home address. It was used obsessively by CBS and Bush opponents in the campaign as evidence of his refusal to obey a direct order. If any criminal or civil liabilities for fraud or forgery of government documents obtain, they would be most applicable to this document.

So, putting aside the typos, the superscripts, the signatures, the wrong header and address, and all the previously dissected items susceptible to subjective interpretations, how do I prove this memo is a fake? Easy — for the weekend that 1st Lt. Bush was supposedly ordered to report for his physical, May 13-14, 1972, the Ellington Air Guard Base was closed. It was Mother’s Day. Except for emergencies, Air Guard units never drilled on Mother’s Day; the divorce lawyers would be waiting at the gate.

If George Bush showed up at the clinic that weekend, he would have had to get the key from the gate guard.

The drill weekend for May 1972 was the following weekend, May 20-21. A survey of the pay and flight records of several of the Texas Air Guard members of that period shows no activity for May 13-14, but drill pay vouchers and flights for May 20-21. Guard flight physicals were normally conducted on the drill weekends, because that is the only time all the required clinic personnel were on hand to complete lab work and flight surgeon consultations mandated for aircrew. Does anyone think that Jerry Killian, squadron commander and one of the drill-schedule planners would not know on May 4 that the clinic was closed the next weekend? While CBS, in its rush to judgment, might have missed this fatal flaw in the Burkett memo, its investigative law firm, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham LLP, cannot be excused. Why? Because one of their investigating lawyers was informed of this fact on Nov. 15 and given a list of seven witnesses who worked in the same offices with Jerry Killian every day in 1972. (Disclosure statement: I was the source.) The panel report makes no mention of this, and a canvass of most of the witness list reveals no contact attempt by Kirkpatrick & Lockhart.

CBS paid Kirkpatrick & Lockhart big bucks for this report. As brilliantly explained by Tony Blankley (“Damage Control at Black Rock,” his Jan.12 column), if Kirkpatrick & Lockhart’s aim was an attorney’s protection of its client, intentional ignorance was a good strategy.

The lesson here: If you are a big media entity with a political agenda and have reporters with a five-year obsession to get George Bush on his Guard service even if it means using fake documents from an incredible source (hint to USA Today) get Kirkpatrick & Lockhart. If you want the unambiguous truth, look in the yellow pages for a good but inexpensive private investigator.

William Campenni, an engineer living in Herndon, Virginia, served as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard in the early 1970s.

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