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Killian documents

From dKosopedia


The Killian documents controversy (also called Memogate or Rathergate) involved documents that were publicized by CBS News during the 2004 US presidential campaign. The documents were the basis for a 60 Minutes Wednesday segment that aired on September 8, 2004, presented by CBS anchor Dan Rather. They contained criticisms of President George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard (TexANG) during the Vietnam war of the 1970s, purportedly by Bush's commander, the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, and re-opened the George W. Bush military service controversy. Almost immediately after the broadcast, the authenticity of the documents was questioned on Internet forums and blogs, initially focusing on alleged anachronisms in their typography. The questions rapidly spread to the mainstream media.

After defending the segment for about two weeks, CBS reversed their previous position that document examiners had authenticated the memos. The documents are considered by some to be forgeries or at least improperly authenticated. Rather himself stated "if I knew then what I know now – I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question." [1] CBS ordered an independent internal investigation(pdf), which concluded that the producers had failed to authenticate the documents, citing "substantial questions regarding the authenticity of the Killian documents", but did not characterize them as forgeries. In addition, it listed other serious criticisms of CBS news and their handling of the controversy. As a result of the investigation, Mary Mapes, the segment's producer, was fired, several other senior executives resigned and CBS apologized to viewers.

Marion Carr Knox, Killian's former secretary, stated that the disputed documents accurately reflected Killian's opinion of Bush's quality of service in the Texas Air National Guard[2]. She stated that she had no firsthand knowledge of Bush's time with the Texas Air National Guard, but did confirm that special treatment for the sons of prominent people, such as Bush, was common.[3]

In a May 1971 performance review, a year prior to the date on the disputed documents, Killian endorsed the rating officer's evaluation of Bush, which in part described him as "an exceptionally fine young officer and pilot".[4]

Killian's son, Gary Killian, questioned one of the memos and stated that others "appeared legitimate"; characterizing the collection as "a mixture of truth and fiction".[5]

Some Republicans (and others, such as conservative bloggers) claimed CBS was attempting to influence the 2004 US Presidential election and made allegations of political bias on the part of CBS staff. Some Democrats claim the document controversy was engineered to misdirect media attention and undermine legitimate criticism of Bush's service record.

One of the Killian documents.


Background and timeline

The memos, supposedly written in 1972 and 1973, were obtained by CBS News producer Mary Mapes and Michael Smith, a freelance journalist from Texas who was collaborating with Mapes, from Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, a former Texas Air National Guard officer, although CBS would not name him as the source until other news organizations began to speculate about Burkett's role. Burkett had received publicity in 2000, after alleging and then retracting a claim that he had been transferred to Panama for refusing "to falsify personnel records of Governor Bush," (Review panel p. 53), and in February of 2004, when he claimed to have knowledge of "scrubbing" of Bush's TexANG records[6],[7] According to the review panel, investigations by major news outlets at the time, including CBS, "revealed inconsistencies... which led to questions regarding his credibility and whether his claims could be proven." (p. 51). The Review panel found that despite this coverage, "no one involved in the vetting of the September 8 segment seemed to be aware of it." (p. 52).

Mapes and Smith made contact with Burkett in late August, and on August 24 Burkett offered to meet with them to share the documents he possessed. Emails between Smith and Mapes document their discussion of providing assistance to Burkett (financial compensation, help negotiating a book deal, security, and Burkett's request that they facilitate his contact with the John Kerry Campaign) in exchange for the documents (Panel Report, pp. 60–62), but found no evidence that any of these proposals "contemplated in these emails was ever consummated, except for putting Burkett in touch with the Kerry campaign," (op.cit.) "a clear violation of CBS News' standard II-I as an 'unethical newsgathering practice.'" During the last week of August, Mapes contacted her immediate superior, Josh Howard, who "emphatically denied giving Mapes permission to make the call." Mapes claims that Howard authorized the contact (Ibid, p. 64–5), and in any case, she was in contact with the campaign several times during the period of the end of August through September 6, when she spoke with senior Kerry advisor Joe Lockhart regarding the progressing story (Ibid, p. 90–91). Lockhart later told the Panel that he was "wary" of contact with Mapes at this stage, because if the story were true, his involvement might undermine its credibility, and if it were false, "he did not want to be associated with it." (op.cit.).

Two documents were provided by Burkett to Mapes on September 2 and four others on September 5, 2004. At the time he supplied the documents, Burkett told Mapes that they were copies of originals that had been obtained from Killian's personal files via Chief Warrant Officer George Conn, another former member of the TexANG (Later, Burkett changed his story more than once about his claims regarding how he supposedly came into possesion of the documents). At this time, Mapes contacted Rather to keep him up to date on the progress of the story, which was being targeted to air on September 8.

Content of the memos

The documents allegedly showed that Bush disobeyed orders while in the Guard, and had undue influence exerted on his behalf to improve his record, and included the following accusations:

  1. An order directing Bush to submit to a physical examination. This order was not carried out.
  2. A note that Killian had grounded Bush from flying due to "failure to perform to USAF/TexANG standards, and for failure to submit to the physical examination as orderd. Killian also requested that a flight inquiry board be convened, as required by regulations, to examine the reasons for Bush's loss of flight status. Independent documents confirm Bush was grounded for failure to complete a physical.[8]
  3. A note of a telephone conversation with Bush in which Bush sought to be excused from "drill." The note records that Bush said he did not have the time to attend to his National Guard duties because of his responsibilities with the Blount campaign.
  4. A note (labeled "CYA" for "cover your ass") claiming that Killian was being pressured from above to give Bush better marks in his yearly evaluation than he had earned. The note attributed to Killian says that he was being asked to "sugarcoat" Bush's performance. "I'm having trouble running interference [for Bush] and doing my job."

USA Today also received copies of the four documents used by CBS and two additional memos. [9], and identified Burkett as the source for this set of documents.[10]

CBS investigations prior to airing the segment

Mapes and her colleagues began preparing a news segment to air on the September 8 program, interviewing people who might be able to corroborate the information in the documents while also retaining four forensic document experts (Marcel J. Matley, James J. Pierce, Emily Will, and Linda James) to assess the validity of the memos.

On September 5, CBS interviewed Robert Strong, a friend of Killian's who ran the Texas Air National Guard administrative office. Among other issues covered in his interview with Rather and Mapes, Strong was asked if he thought the documents were genuine. Strong had first seen the documents 20 minutes earlier and had said he had no personal knowledge of their content, but also replied, "they are compatible with the way business was done at the time. They are compatible with the man that I remember Jerry Killian being." [11], (also Panel report p. 88)

On September 6 CBS interviewed General Robert "Bobby" Hodges, a former officer at the Texas Air National Guard and Killian's immediate superior at the time. Hodges declined CBS' request for an on-camera interview, and Mapes read the documents to him over the telephone. According to Mapes, Hodges agreed with CBS's assessment that the documents were real, and CBS reported Hodges stating that details read to him over the phone were "the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time." [12],[13] According to Hodges, when CBS read portions of the memos to him he simply stated, "well if he wrote them that's what he felt," [14] and he claims he never confirmed the validity of the content of the documents [15] (p.12), further asserting to the investigatory panel that he told Mapes at the time that Killian had never to his knowledge ordered anyone to take a physical and that he had never been pressured regarding Lieutenant Bush, as the documents alleged (op. cit.) Hodges also claims that when CBS interviewed him, he thought the memos were handwritten, not typed, [16] and following the September 8 broadcast, when Hodges had seen the documents and heard of claims of forgery by Killian's wife and son, he was "convinced they were not authentic" and told Rather and Mapes on September 10. (Panel Report, p. 12).

Response of the document examiners

Prior to airing, all four of the examiners responded to Mapes' request for document analysis, though only two to Mapes directly:(Panel Report, pp. 84–86)

  1. Emily Will noted discrepancies in the signatures on the memos, and had questions about the letterhead, the proportional spacing of the font, the superscripted "th" and the formatting of the date. Will requested other documents to use for comparison.
  2. Linda James was "unable to reach a conclusion about the signature" and noted that the superscripted "th" was not in common use at the time the memos were allegedly written.
  3. James Pierce concluded that both of the documents were written by the same person and that the signature matched Killian's from the official Bush records. Only one of the two documents provided to Pierce had a signature. Pierce also told Mapes he could not reach a conclusion about authenticity because he was reviewing copies, not original documents.
  4. Marcel Matley's review was initially limited to Killian's signature on one of the Burkett documents, which he compared to signatures from the official Bush records. Matley "seemed fairly confident" that the signature was Killian's. On September 6, Matley was interviewed by Rather and Mapes and was provided with the other four documents obtained from CBS (he would prove to be the only reviewer to see these documents prior to the segment). Matley told Rather "he could not authenticate the documents due to the fact that they were poor quality copies." (Panel Report, p. 98–99). In the interview, Matley told Rather that with respect to the signatures, they were relying on "poor material" and that there were inconsistencies in the signatures, but also replied "Yes," when asked if it would be safe to say the documents were written by the person who signed them. (Panel Report, p. 101)

The Segment, September 8

The segment, entitled "For The Record" aired on 60 Minutes Wednesday; a transcript is available here. After introducing the documents, Rather said, in reference to Matley,

"We consulted a handwriting analyst and document expert who believes the material is authentic," (Panel Report, p. 127)

The segment introduced Lieutenant Robert Strong's interview, describing him as a "friend of Killian" without noting he had not worked in the same location and without mentioning he had left the TexANG prior to the dates on the memos. The segment used the sound bite of Strong saying the documents were compatible with how business was done without the disclaimer that he was told to assume the documents were authentic (Panel Report, p. 128–129).

Rather's narration about one of the memos refers to pressure being applied on Bush's behalf by General Buck Staudt, whom Rather described as "the man in charge of the Texas National Guard." Staudt had retired from the guard a year and a half prior to the dates of the memos.

Interview clips with Ben Barnes, former Speaker of the Texas House, created the impression "that there was no question but that President Bush had received Barnes' help to get into the TexANG," when Barnes himself had acknowledged that there was no proof his call was the reason, and that "sometimes a call to General Rose did not work." (Panel report, p. 130), testimony that was not included in the Segment.

Initial skepticism

Within hours of the segment, the authenticity of the documents was questioned by posters on Free Republic, a conservative Internet forum, and discussion quickly spread to various weblogs in the blogosphere:

The initial skepticism appeared in the following posts on Free Republic:

"TankerKC": "[The documents are] not in the style that we used when I came into the USAF...Can we get a copy of those memos?" (posted 19 minutes after the CBS broadcast began) [17]
"Buckhead": "Howlin, every single one of these memos to file is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman. In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing, and typewriters used monospaced fonts...I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old. This should be pursued aggressively." (this response came three hours and forty minutes later) [18]
Image:Killian memos MSWord animated.gif
Charles Johnson's animated GIF image comparing what CBS claimed to be a 1973-era typewritten memo with a 2004-era Microsoft Word document made with default settings

"Buckhead," who gained Internet notoriety, would later be identified as Harry W. MacDougald, an Atlanta attorney who had worked for conservative groups such as the Federalist Society and the Southeastern Legal Foundation and who had helped draft the petition to the Arkansas Supreme Court for the disbarment of President Bill Clinton.[19] These facts, along with his rapid response and specific technical complaints about the memos, would fuel speculation on the political left that the entire document controversy was preemptively engineered by Republicans to discredit a potentially legitimate source of criticism over Bush's quality of service in the Texas Air National Guard.

The following morning, several blogs including Power Line[20] and Little Green Footballs[21][22] claimed the memos were almost certainly forgeries. At 11 am on September 9, Charles Johnson at LGF produced an animated .gif file (at right) superimposing the photocopied memo on a copy he produced using the default settings of Microsoft Word, while other writers explored in detail the typographical characterstics of the memos. Within hours, the anti-Kerry weblog defeatjohnjohn[23] had offered detailed supporting research, ultimately offering a $10,000 prize to any individual who could recreate the Killian memos using technology available at the time.

From there, the story was picked up by The Drudge Report and broke into the mainstream media, including the Associated Press and the other major news networks, as well as getting serious attention from conservative writers such as the National Review Online's Jim Geraghty[24][25][26], and, [27], a blog devoted to criticizing Dan Rather for being liberally biased in his reporting. The first article doubting the documents appeared in the Washington Post on September 10.[28]

CBS's response

CBS News initially claimed the documents were "thoroughly vetted by independent experts" and that they were "convinced of their authenticity," having acquired them from an "unimpeachable source."

In an appearance on CNN that day, Rather asserted "I know that this story is true. I believe that the witnesses and the documents are authentic. We wouldn't have gone to air if they would not have been."

On September 10, a CBS memo reiterated the company's confidence in the authenticity of the documents, which it said were "backed up not only by independent handwriting and forensic document experts but by sources familiar with their content" and insisted that no internal investigation would take place. A former Vice President of CBS News dismissed the allegations of bloggers, suggesting that the "checks and balances" of a professional news organization were superior to individuals sitting their home computers "in their pajamas." In response, some conservative bloggers started to refer to themselves as Pajamahadeen.

Left-wing blogs tended to be skeptical of their criticisms. As one poster on the liberal blog Daily Kos wrote in a preface to his rebuttal of forgery arguments:

"As everyone on the planet no doubt knows by now, the hard-right of the freeper* contingent ... discovered that if you used the same typeface, you could make documents that looked almost — but not exactly — like the TANG documents discovered by CBS News."[33]

Concurrently, USA Today reported that it had also obtained copies of some of the memos and had hired independent document examiners to review them, and other news outlets began to pursue the story aggressively.[34]

On September 11, a CBS News Segment stated a document expert Phillip Bouffard had initially expressed doubts but then reported to CBS that the documents "could have been prepared on an IBM Selectric Composer Typewriter, available at the time,"[35]. Bouffard had claimed there is a very high probability that the memos were fake [36], but the Boston Globe cited him as a "skeptic" whose "further study" caused his views to shift [37]. Bouffard claims that further study left him "more convinced" that the memos were forgeries and that he was quoted out of context by the Boston Globe. [38].

CBS noted that General Hodges had changed his opinion about the authenticity of the documents he had never seen, but stated "we believed General Hodges the first time we spoke with him," and "we believe the documents to be genuine."[39]

By September 13, Rather acknowledged that "some of these questions come from people who are not active political partisans,"[40] but reaffirmed that CBS "talked to handwriting and document analysts and other experts who strongly insist the documents could have been created in the 70s,"[41] Rather did not make reference to the original four experts consulted by CBS, who did not authenticate the documents, but presented two additional viewpoints, from Bill Glennon and Richard Katz. Independent media and blog sites accused CBS of expert shopping as they produced document examiners who supported CBS' minority view that the documents were genuine. Glennon, a former typewriter repairman with no specific credentials in typesetting beyond that job, was found by CBS after posting several opinionated defenses of the memos on left wing blog sites such as Daily Kos. In any case, neither interviewee asserted that the memos were genuine; Rather ended by stating CBS "believes the documents to be authentic."[42]

Response statement, Carr interview

By September 15, Emily Will was publicly stating she told CBS that she had doubts about both the production of the memos and the handwriting prior to the segment, and in interviews, Linda James stated that the memos were "very poor quality" and that she did not authenticate them.[43] In response, 60 Minutes Wednesday released a statement [44] suggesting that Will and James had "misrepresented" their role in the authentication of the documents and had played only a small part in the process. CBS News concurrently amended their previous claim that Matley had authenticated the documents, saying instead he had only authenticated the signatures.[45] On CNN, Matley stated he had only verified that the signatures were "from the same source," not that they were authentically Killian's [46]:

"When I saw the documents, I could not verify the documents were authentic or inauthentic. I could only verify that the signatures came from the same source," Matley said. "I could not authenticate the documents themselves. But at the same time, there was nothing to tell me that they were not authentic."

CBS located and interviewed Marian Carr Knox, who was a secretary at Ellington Air Force from 1956 to 1979, and Colonel Killian's assistant on the dates of the memos. According to Knox, she did not type the memos and the memos were not written by Killian, though she believed they reflected the truth about Lieutenant Bush.[47] She also stated she had no first hand knowledge of Bush's time in the Guard.[48] Referring to the disputed memos, Knox commented "The information in here was correct, but it was picked up from the real ones," she said. "I probably typed the information and somebody picked up the information some way or another." CBS also hired a private investigator to look into the matter after the story aired and the controversy began.[49]

Copies of the documents were first released to the public by the White House. Press Secretary Scott McClellan stated that the memos had been provided to them by CBS in the days prior to the report and that, "We had every reason to believe that they were authentic at that time." Some have critically suggested that this belief of authenticity by the White House could not have existed if the memos contained information they knew to be inaccurate. Others suggest that if the White House did not release what CBS gave them (documents/photocopies of unknown provenance), there would have been complaints of 'failure to disclose'.

The Washington Post reported that at least one of the documents obtained by CBS had a fax header indicating it had been faxed from a Kinko's copy center [50] in Abilene, Texas, leading some to trace the documents back to Burkett.

CBS states that use of the documents was a mistake

As a growing number of independent document examiners and competing news outlets reported their findings about the documents, CBS News stopped defending the documents and began to report on the problems with their story. On September 20 they reported that their source, Bill Burkett, "admits that he deliberately misled the CBS News producer working on the report, giving her a false account of the documents' origins to protect a promise of confidentiality to the actual source." While the network did not state that the memos were forgeries [51], CBS News president Andrew Heyward did state

"Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report. We should not have used them. That was a mistake, which we deeply regret."[52][53]

On November 9, 2005, Mary Mapes contradicted this statement in an interview with ABC News correspondant Brian Ross. Mapes stated that the documents have never been proved to be forgeries, Ross challenged that the responsibility is on the reporter to verify their authenticity. Mapes responded with, "I don't think that's the standard."

In an interview with Dan Rather, Burkett admitted that he misled CBS about the source of the documents, and then claimed that the documents came to him from "Lucy Ramirez", whom CBS has yet been unable to identify. [54]

On September 21, CBS News addressed the contact with the Kerry campaign in its statement: "It is obviously against CBS News standards and those of every other reputable news organization to be associated with any political agenda." [55] The next day the network announced it was forming an independent review panel to perform an internal investigation.

Review panel established

Soon after, CBS established a review panel "to help determine what errors occurred in the preparation of the report and what actions need to be taken." [56] Dick Thornburgh, former governor of Pennsylvania and United States Attorney General, and Louis Boccardi, retired president and chief executive officer and former executive editor of the Associated Press, made up the two-person review board.


On January 5, 2005 the Report of the Independent Review Panel on the September 8, 2004 60 Minutes Wednesday Segment "For the Record" Concerning President Bush's Air National Guard Service was released.

The purpose of the panel was to examine the process by which the September 8 Segment was prepared and broadcast, to examine the circumstances surrounding the subsequent public statements and news reports by CBS News defending the segment, and to make any recommendations it deemed appropriate. Among the Panel's conclusions were the following:

The most serious defects in the reporting and production of the September 8 Segment were:
  1. The failure to obtain clear authentication of any of the Killian documents from any document examiner;
  2. The false statement in the September 8 Segment that an expert had authenticated the Killian documents when all he had done was authenticate one signature from one document used in the Segment;
  3. The failure of 60 Minutes Wednesday management to scrutinize the publicly available, and at times controversial, background of the source of the documents, retired Texas Army National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett;
  4. The failure to find and interview the individual who was understood at the outset to be Lieutenant Colonel Burkett’ s source of the Killian documents, and thus to establish the chain of custody;
  5. The failure to establish a basis for the statement in the Segment that the documents "were taken from Colonel Killian’s personal files";
  6. The failure to develop adequate corroboration to support the statements in the Killian documents and to carefully compare the Killian documents to official TexANG records, which would have identified, at a minimum, notable inconsistencies in content and format;
  7. The failure to interview a range of former National Guardsmen who served with Lieutenant Colonel Killian and who had different perspectives about the documents;
  8. The misleading impression conveyed in the Segment that Lieutenant Strong had authenticated the content of the documents when he did not have the personal knowledge to do so;
  9. The failure to have a vetting process capable of dealing effectively with the production speed, significance and sensitivity of the Segment; and
  10. The telephone call prior to the Segment’s airing by the producer of the Segment to a senior campaign official of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry—a clear conflict of interest—that created the appearance of a political bias.
Once questions were raised about the September 8 Segment, the reporting thereafter was mishandled and compounded the damage done. Among the more egregious shortcomings during the Aftermath were:
  1. The strident defense of the September 8 Segment by CBS News without adequately probing whether any of the questions raised had merit;
  2. Allowing many of the same individuals who produced and vetted the by-then controversial September 8 Segment to also produce the follow-up news reports defending the Segment;
  3. The inaccurate press statements issued by CBS News after the broadcast of the Segment that the source of the documents was “unimpeachable” and that experts had vouched for their authenticity;
  4. The misleading stories defending the Segment that aired on the CBS Evening News after September 8 despite strong and multiple indications of serious flaws;
  5. The efforts by 60 Minutes Wednesday to find additional document examiners who would vouch for the authenticity of the documents instead of identifying the best examiners available regardless of whether they would support this position; and
  6. Preparing news stories that sought to support the Segment, instead of providing accurate and balanced coverage of a raging controversy.

Panel's view of the documents themselves

The panel did not undertake a thorough examination of the authenticity of the Killian documents, but consulted Peter Tytell, a New York City-based forensic document examiner and typewriter and typography expert who analyzed the typeface of the documents. Tytell concluded that the documents were not produced on a typewriter in the early 1970s but were produced on a computer in a Times New Roman typestyle that would not have been available at that time.

The panel found Tytell's analysis to be sound, but did not reach a conclusion on whether his analysis was correct overall.

CBS response to the panel findings

CBS apologized to viewers, terminated Mary Mapes, and demanded the resignations of Senior Vice President Betsy West, who had been in charge of all prime time newscasts, 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard, and Howard's top deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy. Murphy and West resigned on February 25, 2005,[57][58], and after settling a legal dispute regarding his level of responsibility for the segment, Josh Howard resigned on March 25, 2005.[59]

Explanatory theories for the possibility of forgery

An attempt to harm Bush?

Some critics of CBS and Dan Rather have contended that CBS's decision to air the story reflected an attempt to influence the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election, and supported accusations of liberal bias at CBS[60]. It has also been suggested that nothing more than ambition was needed for a motive, since breaking such a story would be a major achievement.

CBS producer Mary Mapes was faulted (and later lost her job) for issues arising from this controversy—such as violating CBS' ethical standards. There was a finding by CBS that she "creat[ed] the appearance of political bias" because of her call to Joe Lockhart.

An attempt to help Bush?

Another possibility advanced by some bloggers and some prominent Democrats was that the documents had been forged by supporters of Bush in order to produce a controversy over the documents themselves, to undermine the credibility of Bush's opponents and direct the attention of the media and the public away from criticisms of Bush's service record.

Supporters of this view point out that the original source of the documents is still unknown: Burkett ultimately claimed that a woman named "Lucy Ramirez" phoned him from Houston in March 2004 to offer the documents,[61] but no such person has come forward or been definitively identified. (Critics say there has never been corroborating proof that she actually exists).[62][63]

Supporters also argue that the lack of an ongoing investigation into the felony of forging military documents implies high-level pressure not to investigate the crime. [64].

Finally, the fact that people who supposedly had no advance knowledge of the documents before the broadcast were nevertheless able to analyze the typographical issues based only on the indistinct televised image and quickly present detailed arguments without having seen the actual documents. [65]. (Detractors of this hypothesis, such as Charles Johnson, have countered that the documents were almost immediately disputed simply because the forgery was so incompetently performed as to make it trivial to expose.)

One person often suggested as having masterminded the incident is Bush adviser Karl Rove. The most prominent advocate of the Rove hypothesis to date has been Representative Maurice Hinchey (D.-NY), who on February 19, 2005, in a speech at a community forum in Ithaca, New York, suggested that Rove's motivation was that "they knew that Bush was a draft dodger." [66] On CNN, Hinchey presented his view:

HINCHEY: [I]t doesn't take a lot of imagination to come up with the name of Karl Rove as a possibility of having done that.
WOODRUFF: But, at this point, it is just imagination, is that correct?
HINCHEY: It's a possibility, yes. It's a possibility based upon circumstantial evidence and the history of his behavior over the course of several decades.

Rove has come under suspicion because of his history of deceptive tactics. [67] To date, however, there is no direct evidence of his involvement. Rove himself has denied it. [68]

Rove is not the only suspect. The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, suggested Roger Stone might have a hand in what McAullife called the "forgeries" [69], and others have suggested that Stone's wife, who is Cuban, may have been the "Lucy Ramirez" whom Burkett claims supplied the documents [70]. Stone also denied any involvement in the forgeries, stating, "I have nothing whatsoever to do with this. I'm a firm believer in political hardball, but I draw the line at forged documents." [71]

Detailed analysis of authentication issues

No generally recognized document experts have positively authenticated the memos. Several individuals with expertise in typewriters or computer typography regard the documents as forgeries based on typographical analysis. These include Peter Tytell, a document examiner and typewriter expert [72], Thomas Phinney, an Adobe computer font expert [73], and Joseph Newcomer, a computer typography pioneer and Windows typography expert [74]. This conclusion is based in part on analysis of the letterspacing, as follows:

The typography of the Killian documents can be matched with a modern personal computer and printer using Microsoft Word with the default font (Times New Roman) and other settings. Therefore the equipment with which the Killian documents were actually produced must have been capable of matching the typographical characteristics produced by this modern technology.
The letterspacing of the Times New Roman font used by Microsoft Word with a modern personal computer and printer employs a system of 18 units relative to the letter height (em), with common characters being 5 to 17 units wide. (The technology allows even finer variability of character widths, but the 18 unit system was chosen for compatibility with the Linotype phototypesetting and earlier hot-metal versions of the font.) In contrast, the variability of character widths available on early 1970s typewriters using proportional letterspacing was more limited, due to the mechanical technology employed. The most sophisticated of these machines, the IBM Selectric Composer, used a system of 9 units relative to the letter height, in which all characters were 3 to 9 units wide. Less complex machines used fewer widths.
Differences in individual character widths accumulate over the length of a line, so that comparatively small differences become readily apparent. Because of the differing character widths employed, the letterspacing exhibited by the Killian documents (matching that produced by a modern computer and printer) could not have been produced with a mechanical typewriter using proportional letterspacing in the early 1970s. At the time the documents were purportedly created, the matching letterspacing could only have been produced using phototypesetting or hot-metal printing. But it is not a realistic possibility that Killian would have had these documents printed, so it must be concluded that they are modern forgeries.

Typographical questions

Proportional fonts

One of the initial doubts bloggers raised about the memos was the use of proportional fonts. The majority of typewriters available in 1972 used fixed width fonts, and most of the authenticated documents from the TexANG were typed using fixed width fonts commonly associated with typewriters; one document released by the Pentagon on September 24, 2004 used a proportionally-spaced font somewhat similar to the font used in the Killian memos [75]. Some have suggested that because they are photocopies, the actual font of the Killian Documents may be almost impossible to identify. Various proportional fonts were commonly available on military typewriters of that era. This 1969 letter from Gen. Ross Ayers of TexANG also exhibits proportional spacing, as does this letter of resignation in protest from a TexANG secretary, as does John Kerry's 1967 Navy fitness report, as does this 1963 White House memorandum. None of these proportional font examples is the same font as that used on the Killian documents.

Several experts interviewed by the media suggested that the proportional fonts in the documents indicated likely forgery. John Collins, vice president and chief technology officer at Bitstream Inc., the parent of, stated that word processors that could produce proportional-sized fonts cost upwards of $20,000 at the time.[76] Allan Haley, director of words and letters at Agfa Monotype, stated "It was highly out of the ordinary for an organization, even the Air Force, to have proportional-spaced fonts for someone to work with."[77] William Flynn, a forensic document specialist with 35 years of experience in police crime labs and private practice, said the CBS documents raise suspicions because of their use of proportional spacing techniques.[78] The Washington Post also indicated the presence of proportional fonts as suspicious "of more than 100 records made available by the 147th Group and the Texas Air National Guard, none used the proportional spacing techniques characteristic of the CBS documents".[79] However, several documents later obtained from the TexANG, including parts of Bush's service record, display proportional fonts. None of these documents used the same proportional font as the CBS documents.

Bill Glennon, a technology consultant in New York City with typewriter repair experience from 1973 to 1985 said experts making the claim that typewriters were incapable of producing the memos "are full of crap. They just don't know." He said there were IBM machines capable of producing the spacing, and a customized key — the likes of which he said were not unusual — for creating the superscript th.[80] Thomas Phinney, program manager for fonts at Adobe Systems responded to Glennon's statement that the memos could not have been produced with either the IBM Executive or Selectric Composer, which had been suggested as possibilities, due to differences in letter width and spacing. [81] Phinney says that each time a typeface was redeveloped for mechanical technologies with different width factors, the width and designs are altered, which is why even if Press Roman had been intended to look like Times Roman, the result is significantly different.

Typewriters with proportional fonts were first introduced in 1941, mass-produced from 1948 onwards, and were in widespread use by 1972. The most common device available in 1972 with proportional font support and similar (though not an exact match) [82] to the font some claim was used in the memos (11-point Press Roman vs. 12-point Times New Roman) is the IBM Selectric Composer. The IBM Executive was the most common proportional-spacing typewriter of the era, and supported a single serifed proportional font that is very different from the Selectric Composer font that most closely matches the font some believe is used in the memos. The Selectric Composer was a "Selectric" in name only—really a low-end typesetting device rather than a typewriter, and cost $3,600 to $4,400 in 1973 dollars ($16,000 to $22,000 in 2004 dollars). (Regular Selectrics were available second-hand for around $150 [83], but could not have produced the documents in question.)

Desktop magazine in Australia analysed the documents in its November 2004 issue and concluded that the typeface was a post-1985 version of Times Roman, rather than Times New Roman, both of which are different in detail to IBM Press Roman. The article did not dispute that superscripts and proportional fonts were available in the 1970s.

Sophisticated spacing

Two blogs argued that the Killian memos display kerning, a sophisticated character spacing that is ubiquitous with word-processing documents and uncommon in typewriters in 1972. Both blogs later retracted the claim of kerning.[84][85] Joseph Newcomer, an expert cited by critics of the memos, asserts that the memos do not display kerning.

Word wrapping

Because a typewriter does not have the ability to know what the user is going to type next, it is up to the typist to decide when to move the carriage to the next line. Sometimes, a typist will use hyphenation to split a word between two lines on a syllable boundary, while computer word processors like Microsoft Word do not do this by default. The documents are not hyphenated; several official TexANG documents are not hyphenated either.[86]

Superscripted "th"

Some of the memos display a superscripted "th" glyph in a smaller font, raised above the level of the normal text (111th).[87] Such a small font would require a special character on a traditional typewriter. Marian Carr Knox recalled that during her time at the Guard she used a mechanical Olympia typewriter that did have a special 'th' key. (This 'th' character was the same weight as the other characters.) She said it was replaced by an IBM Selectric in the early 1970s. Several documents of unquestioned authenticity in the Bush records have superscripted 'th' characters interspersed throughout; however, they are not raised above the level of the normal text.[88] Like the 'th' key available for the Olympia, they go to the same height as the other lower-case letters. As with any other superscript, such as a footnote mark, the typist would have to manually turn the paper roller slightly to raise the glyph above the baseline. Superscript footnotes were present in official ANG documents released regarding Bush's service.[89] Philip Bouffard, an authority cited by critics on other issues, has stated of the superscript, "You can't just say that this is definitively the mark of a computer."[90]

On some typewriters, superscripts in metal type differed from standard letters by being proportionally wider and heavier, so that when set, they looked the same "weight". Some bloggers have argue that the weight of the superscript appears to be smaller, though the document is heavily distorted from combined faxing and photocopying. Some of the official public records display the reduced "th" glyph at a weight which is not obviously different from the text.[91]

Superscripted and reduced "th" glyphs are generated automatically by Microsoft Word immediately after a number. Other instances of "111 th" on some of the same documents are not superscripted or reduced in size. Similarly, Word automatically superscripts the "st" in 1st. Word does not superscript if a space is present between the number and the glyph; however, on the documents the "th" and "st" glyphs are not superscripted in some cases when there is no intervening space.[92][93]

Centered headers

Bloggers at ChronicallyBiased [94] noted that two of the memos, dated May 4 and August 1, 1972, feature a three-line centered heading which aligns exactly between two memos dated three months apart, and with a comparison document created using the auto-centering feature of Microsoft Word.[95]

Creating centered headers is possible on a typewriter, even if the font is proportional. The typist can left-justify the header and then use the space bar to count the number of spaces from the end of the text to the right margin. In addition, the IBM Executive and Selectric have a kerning key that would give a more accurate measure of the whitespace. Once this number is determined, halving it gives the number of leading spaces for an centered header. The same centering will be achieved on different occasions if the paper is inserted flush to the paper guide, and the same count of spaces is applied. The bloggers assert that the probability of a typewriter user repeatedly centering successive lines of text to both the page itself and to each other is low. For an example of multiple centered lines produced using a proportionally spaced typewriter font, see the third page of the contemporary annual history of Bush's Alabama guard unit.[96]

Word processors, by contrast, center text based on a computer algorithm using a fixed central reference point rather than the left margin on the typewriter as measured from the paper's edge. If the paper in a printer is flush to the left of the paper guide, then a word processor will achieve the same centering throughout a given page and on different pages. In the Killian memos the text matches perfectly when overlaid with a word processor-centered 3 line address block, and between the 3- and 2- line blocks of different memos.

Curved apostrophes

In several places, the documents use apostrophes such as in the words I'm and won't. These are curved somewhat to the left, similar to the shape of a comma. Allegedly, most typewriters of the era featured vertical apostrophes, rather than angled ones. However, for an example of curved apostrophes on documents produced by Bush's unit, see the 1973 "historical record".[97]

Bloggers have frequently asserted the documents use curly, or "smart", quotes – distinct left and right double quotes. This feature is common on modern word processors. In fact, the documents use no quotation marks of any kind, either single or double.

Reproduction of the documents using modern technology

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs published an animated GIF comparing what he claims is one of the CBS memos and a version he typed in Microsoft Word on Mac OS X using the software's default settings (overlay). When using other versions of Microsoft Word or alternative products such as WordPerfect, with their default settings, such an exact match is not usually obtained [98]. The underlying suggestion that the documents produced are identical has also been disputed by liberal sites such as Daily Kos, which pointed out that there were letters and words in the original which were not aligned properly, as well as variations in the boldness of letters, and even in the shapes of certain numbers. [99][100] Daily Kos readers reported the existence of an inconsistent baseline in the original and divergent locations of the 'th' supercript [101].

In response, the creator of the screenshot converted the Word document to a PDF and obtained a much closer match to the superscript [102]. In Microsoft Word, the 'th' superscript is drawn in a different location on the screen than it is when printed. Another experiment showed that faxing, scanning, and copying a Word document creates random baseline irregularities [103]. Some of these observations, even if substantiated, could still be explained as common by-products of fax transmission and/or repeated photocopying (a technique often used by forgers to give the appearance of age). One approach, using a custom computer algorithm to find the best alignment between the scanned memo and the Word version, seems to show an exact overlay, demonstrating how the low fidelity of the CBS documents can give the appearance of differences between individual letters in the two versions due to the random "thickening" introduced during the faxing and/or photocopying process [104]. However, the same low fidelity also aids the appearance of an exact overlay, as the re-sizing of the CBS documents obscures details.

Reproduction using contemporary technology

Thus far, no one has been able to reproduce the exact typography, spacing and layout of the Killian memos using technology available in 1972. The political weblog offered a $10,000 reward to "anyone who can find for me a typewriter from 1972 that could have reasonably made those documents". Through a series of contributions and pledges from all over the world, the reward grew to more than $50,000 within weeks, giving the previously-small blog some surprising international publicity. (Despite extensive media coverage of this challenge, to date no one has been publicly able to accomplish the task and claim the money.)

Many analysts have said that they were not concerned with whether or not it was hypothetically possible to duplicate one or even a few of the typographic features with 1973 technology, but whether it was likely that all of them would have matched, at least as closely as the Microsoft Word samples, using a single typewriter that could plausibly have been in use at a remote national guard base in 1973 (and apparently wasn't used to type any other memos from that base). Several people with experience in operating either the IBM Executive or the Selectric Composer have said that they were much more complicated to operate than a regular typewriter and therefore were reserved for important correspondence within the companies where they had worked.

Similarity to contemporary documents

The Washington Post reported that "of more than 100 records made available by the 147th Group and the Texas Air National Guard, none used the proportional spacing techniques characteristic of the CBS documents"[105]. This raises the question of the likelihood of a National Guard office having access to this type of equipment.

However, on September 24, 2004 another PDF packet of Bush's Guard records appeared on a Pentagon site containing the full master list of the officially released records. [106] The PDF packet is labeled "Documents Released on September 24, 2004," and the sixth document, dated February 19, 1971 and titled "Appointment and Federal Recognition," is proportionally spaced. While it appears to be of a different font style than that used in the Killian memos, it is apparently the first officially released document that is in some sort of obviously proportionally spaced font. Several other proportionally space TexANG documents have since surfaced.

According to the Washington Post on September 14, 2004, "The analysis shows that half a dozen Killian memos released earlier by the military were written with a standard typewriter using different formatting techniques from those characteristic of computer-generated documents. CBS's Killian memos bear numerous signs that are more consistent with modern-day word-processing programs, particularly Microsoft Word..."

Ones versus Ells

On September 13, CBS Evening News introduced two new experts to vouch for the authenticity of the memos. One of the individuals, a software designer named Richard Katz, stated that a lower case ell was used in place of the numeral one in the memos. Further, he asserted that this would be difficult to duplicate on a computer today. Mr. Katz did not publicly explain the details of how he made this determination.

Some bloggers have speculated that Mr. Katz was referring to the fact that early typewriters did not have a one or zero key and that typists learned to use ells and the letter "O" in their place. One blogger has asserted that it is exceedingly difficult to discern a one from a lowercase ell even when dealing with a pristine original. Further, he stated that the spacing of a one better matches the documents than that of an ell when attempting to reproduce the documents in Microsoft Word.[107]

Content and Formatting

In addition typography, aspects of the memos such as the content and formatting have been challenged.


Of the documents, only the May 4 memo bears a full signature. This signature was confirmed as authentic by Marcel Matley [108], an expert consulted by CBS. Matley examined only the signature and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves [109]. A different independent certified forensic document examiner said Killian did not sign the documents [110].

Skepticism from Killian's family and others

Jerry Killian's wife and son argued that their father never used typewriting equipment and would have written these memos by hand. The family also stated that Killian was not known for keeping personal memos and that he had been very pleased with George Bush's performance in his TANG unit.

In contrast, Killian's secretary at the time, Marian Carr Knox, stated, "We did discuss Bush's conduct and it was a problem Killian was concerned about. I think he was writing the memos so there would be some record that he was aware of what was going on and what he had done." She added that Killian had her type the memos and locked them away in his private files. She did not believe the CBS documents were real, due to inconsistencies, but said the content is accurate and was perhaps copied from the originals. Gary Killian, Killian's son, disputed her version of the history. [111]

Earl W. Lively, who at the time was the commanding officer at the Austin TANG facility was quoted in the Washington Times as saying, "They're forged as hell."

Mention of influence by retired officer

An officer, Walter Staudt, cited in the memo dated August 18, 1973 as exerting pressure on officers to "sugar coat" their evaluations of Bush, had in fact retired from the service in March of 1972. Defenders contend that Staudt could have continued to exert influence after his retirement.

Staudt, however, in an exclusive interview with ABC Sept 17th, has denied this. ABC News "Speaking Out" Staudt said he never tried to influence Killian or other Guardsmen, and added that he never came under any pressure himself to accept Bush. "No one called me about taking George Bush into the Air National Guard," he said. "It was my decision. I swore him in. I never heard anything from anybody. And I never pressured anybody about George Bush because I had no reason to," Staudt told ABC News in his first interview since the documents were made public.

Mention of Flight Inquiry

The memo informing Bush that his flying status was revoked stated in part "I conveyed my verbal orders to my commander ... with request for orders of suspension and convening of a flight review board." An official memo by Gen. Greenlief confirming the order to suspend Bush, and stating the cause, exists. [112] However, no records of this request or the flight inquiry board itself have been found. Regulations required such a review following the grounding of any pilot.


Paper size

It is possible that a photocopy of the memos onto letter-size paper might have shown thin border lines or other artifacts had they been typed on the smaller official military stock of the time. The central areas of the documents are heavily "speckled" from the faxing and copying process, while the left and right margins are not; no solid lines are apparent.[126] In 1921, two different committees decided on standard paper sizes for the United States. A group called the Permanent Conference on Printing established the 8 by 10½ size as the general U.S. government letterhead standard, while a Committee on the Simplification of Paper Sizes came up with the more familiar 8½ by 11 size now known as US Letter.[127] The U.S. military used the smaller size up until the early 1980s.

Independent experts

The majority of independent document authentication experts contacted by the major news media and bloggers have indicated a strong likelihood that the Killian memos are forgeries constructed with the use of modern word processing software and printer technology, and "aged" using multiple generations of copying to blur the characters. Several are "certain" that the documents are fraudulent.

In contrast, Dr. David Hailey, who holds a doctorate in technical communication and is an associate professor and director of a media lab at Utah State University, stated in October 2004 that "evidence from a forensic examination of the Bush memos indicates that they were typed on a typewriter." [128] Hailey's study has been controversial with critics pointing out that Hailey donated $250 to Kerry's campaign; Hailey has also been the subject of an email campaign demanding his dismissal from the university after bloggers alleged that he fabricated portions of the study and made several claims in it that were perceived to be misleading. [129] Dr. Joseph Newcomer, a document expert who produced an extensive analysis asserting the memos were forgeries, called Hailey's study "deeply flawed" [130]. After reading both Hailey's study and Newcomer's analysis, Thomas Phinney, a typography expert employed by Adobe, concurred with Newcomer.

See also

External links

The memos

NB: the following are all PDF documents and might prove larger than expected.

USA Today

News items


Blog and other links


This article incorporates material from the Wikipedia article "Killian documents". The list of authors can be found here.

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This page was last modified 16:12, 17 December 2005 by dKosopedia user Derex. Based on work by dKosopedia user(s) Jim Lane, Tiff and Lestatdelc. Content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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