As I’m watching this Rathergate story unfold before my eyes, I continue to ask myself what a trial might look like if Dan Rather and CBS were arguing this case before a jury. Let’s call for their opening statement:
Correspondent Dan Rather has new information on the presidentï¿½s military service ï¿½ and the first-ever interview with the man who says he pulled strings to get young George W. Bush into the Texas Air National Guard.
Dan calls his first witness, Mr. Ben Barnes:
George W. Bush had just graduated from Yale, and faced the prospect of being drafted himself. But former Texas House Speaker and Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes says he helped keep that from happening.
Mr. Barnes, what is your current affiliation with the Kerry campaign?
“Uh, um… I’m Vice Chair of the Kerry Campaign.”
Are we to believe your testimony here today is unbiased and not political?
“I’ve had hundreds of phone calls from people wanting to know the story. And I’ve been quoted and misquoted. And the reason I am here today ï¿½ is that I really want to tell the story. And I want to tell it one time. And get it behind us. And again, it is not about George Bush’s political career. This is about what the truth is.”
Oh really? I bet it would interest you to hear what your daughter has to say about that:
I love my father very much, but he’s doing this for purely political reasons. He is a big Kerry fund-raiser and he is writing a book also. And [the Bush story] is what he’s leading the book off with. … He denied this to me in 2000 that he did get Bush out [of Vietnam service]. Now he’s saying he did. … This came out in 2000 and I asked him then, at the time, if he [helped get Bush into the Guard]. He said: “No, absolutely not. I did not do that.”
At this point Dan jumps from his seat, documents in hand and says:
But 60 Minutes has obtained a number of documents we are told were taken from Col. Killian’s personal file. Among them, a never-before-seen memorandum from May 1972, where Killian writes that Lt. Bush called him to talk about “how he can get out of coming to drill from now through November.”
Wow, such a stunning blow to the other side… And Dan, we assume, if the court requests, you’ll produce Col. Killian to discuss these documents in question?
Uh…um…Col. Killian died in 1984.
Well, can you please explain to the court just how you intend to provide adequate foundation for the admission of these documents before the jury?
60 Minutes consulted a handwriting analyst and document expert who believes the material is authentic. Rather said CBS’s lead expert was Marcel Matley of San Francisco, a member of the National Association of Document Examiners who has taught, lectured and written about his field, testified in numerous trials and consulted for government agencies. Matley said Friday night that a “60 Minutes” executive had asked him not to give interviews.
Ok, so the alleged author is no longer living, but you’ve got an expert witness to authenticate these documents. Mr. Matley, what are your findings?
“There’s no way that I, as a document expert, can authenticate them,” Marcel Matley said in a telephone interview from San Francisco.
Dan, perhaps you can offer some other experts that can authenticate them?
Emily Will, a veteran document examiner from North Carolina, told ABC News she saw problems right away with the one document CBS hired her to check the weekend before the broadcast. “I found five significant differences in the questioned handwriting, and I found problems with the printing itself as to whether it could have been produced by a typewriter,” she said. Will says she sent the CBS producer an e-mail message about her concerns and strongly urged the network the night before the broadcast not to use the documents.
A second document examiner hired by CBS News, Linda James of Plano, Texas, also told ABC News she had concerns about the documents and could not authenticate them. “I did not authenticate anything and I don’t want it to be misunderstood that I did,” James said. “And that’s why I have come forth to talk about it because I don’t want anybody to think I did authenticate these documents.”
“I’m virtually certain these were computer-generated,” Sandra Ramsey Lines (a document expert and fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences) said after reviewing copies of the documents at her office in Paradise Valley, Ariz.
The personnel chief in Killian’s unit at the time also said he believes the documents are fake. “They looked to me like forgeries,” Rufus Martin said. “I don’t think Killian would do that, and I knew him for 17 years.”
A detailed comparison by The Washington Post of memos obtained by CBS News with authenticated documents on Bush’s National Guard service reveals dozens of inconsistencies, ranging from conflicting military terminology to different word-processing techniques.
“I am personally 100 percent sure that they are fake,” said Joseph M. Newcomer, author of several books on Windows programming, who worked on electronic typesetting techniques in the early 1970s.
Retired Col. Maurice Udell, the unit’s instructor pilot who helped train Mr. Bush, said Friday he thought the documents were fake.
Ok, Dan. So you’ve produced documents allegedly written by a man unable to authenticate them from his grave. You’ve produced an expert who is incapable of authenticating them. And we have numerous people calling them fakes, including experts YOU HIRED.
Dan: Your honor, I call to the stand, Ms. Marian Carr Knox, Jerry Killian’s secretary to authenticate these documents:
ï¿½These are not real,ï¿½ she told The Dallas Morning News after examining copies of the disputed memos for the first time. ï¿½Theyï¿½re not what I typed, and I would have typed them for him.ï¿½
Well, that probably wasn’t the testimony you were hoping for, was it? Do you have any other evidence supporting the authenticity of these documents?
In its broadcast last night, CBS News produced a new expert, Bill Glennon, an information technology consultant. He said that IBM electric typewriters in use in 1972 could produce superscripts and proportional spacing similar to those used in the disputed documents. Any argument to the contrary is “an out-and-out lie,” Glennon said in a telephone interview. But Glennon said he is not a document expert, could not vouch for the memos’ authenticity and only examined them online because CBS did not give him copies when asked to visit the network’s offices.
Ah, that’s better. Now you’re offering the statements of a man who admits he’s not a document expert and to whom you refused to provide copies… to prove the authenticity of the documents. Good job. So you’re saying he’s just here to tell the jury that it was possible a typewriter that existed somewhere on the planet in the 1970s might have been capable of producing the documents in question? Well, by golly, that means case closed, doesn’t it? But wait, there’s more…
Thomas Phinney, program manager for fonts for the Adobe company in Seattle, which helped to develop the modern Times New Roman font, disputed Glennon’s statement to CBS. He said “fairly extensive testing” had convinced him that the fonts and formatting used in the CBS documents could not have been produced by the most sophisticated IBM typewriters in use in 1972, including the Selectric and the Executive. He said the two systems used fonts of different widths.
Oops. Let’s try again. Maybe you can get someone named in the documents to authenticate them.
The Dallas Morning News said in a report for its Saturday editions that the officer named in a memo as exerting pressure to “sugar coat” Mr. Bush’s record had left the Texas Air National Guard 1ï¿½ years before the memo was dated. The newspaper said it obtained an order showing that Walter B. Staudt, former commander of the Texas Guard, retired on March 1, 1972. The memo was dated Aug. 18, 1973. A telephone call to Staudt’s home Friday night was not answered.
Dan, Dan, Dan, do you have anything… anything at all to authenticate the documents you’ve produced to the viewing public to support your claims against the President of the United States?
Rather said on The CBS Evening News that broadcast memos questioned by forensic experts came from “what we consider to be solid sources.”
CBS used several techniques to make sure these papers should be taken seriously. Talking to handwriting and document analysts and other experts who strongly insist that the documents could have been created in the ’70s.
“We decided there was a preponderance of evidence that they are what they purport to be, ” said Rather.
So what you’re telling us is - that despite numerous experts, including your own, stating these documents are likely forgeries and despite the fact your interviewee has a totally different story given under oath than the one he gave on your program, and despite the fact that, aside from the obvious problems with the documents, at least one references pressure from a man who, at the time, was no longer even in the Guard - that the only supporting evidence you have on the authenticity of these documents is your word? Ignoring everything else, you expect the jury to rely on YOUR decision that the documents are what they purport to be?
Well, your honor… he is Dan Rather.