Cover Story

Rear Guard

"Rear Guard" Continued...

Issue: "Rathergate," Sept. 25, 2004

Proportional spacing: The memos used a process of spacing common on modern word processors, but uncommon on 1970s-era typewriters. In proportional spacing, an "I" takes up less horizontal space than an "M." Most typewriters in the early 1970s used monospacing.

Apostrophes: The memos used curled apostrophes, rather than the straight apostrophes found on most typewriters at the time. Again, a typewriter technician would likely have to solder on a special character to duplicate the CBS memo.

Kerning: In typesetting, certain letter combinations are allowed to infringe upon another's personal space. In the word AWARE, the "A" tucks along the diagonal stroke of the "W." Kerning was impossible with typewriters because the machines could not know what key would be struck next. The CBS memos use a kind of kerning perfectly consistent with Microsoft Word.

Centering: In the CBS memos, a three-line address atop two of the documents appears perfectly centered even when using proportional spacing. A typist would likely have needed a pen and pad (or slide rule) to work the math of centering three lines of proportionally spaced words.

After the initial, mechanical concerns, other problems with the memos soon began to appear. First, Mr. Killian's son and former wife stepped forward saying the colonel didn't type and never felt that way about Lt. Bush. Then Mr. Hodges said he'd never actually seen the memos CBS asked him to authenticate. He subsequently said he believed the documents to be forged. Another CBS expert, Marcel Matley, claimed he never told the network he believed the documents to be valid.

By the weekend, CBS still clung tightly to its last source, Robert Strong, who told the network that he "didn't see anything [in the memos] that was inconsistent with how we did business." But in an interview with WORLD, Mr. Strong clarified his statement, saying he merely meant the documents reflected the supercharged political nature of the Guard at the time. Mr. Strong said he neither vouched for the memos to CBS, nor had a personal opinion as to their validity.

Eventually the mainstream media began to take a hard look at the CBS report. ABC News tracked down two document experts who said CBS approached them to verify the four memos. Both experts said they told CBS they considered the documents to be likely forgeries. Linda James, a document expert from Plano, Texas, whom CBS contacted, told The Washington Post she questioned "whether they were produced on a computer." When asked if the network took her concerns seriously, she replied, "Evidently not."

Even Mr. Killian's former secretary pronounced the documents to be forgeries. "These are not real," Marian Carr Knox, the colonel's assistant in the early 1970s, told the Dallas Morning News after examining copies of the memos. "They're not what I typed, and I would have typed them for him." Ms. Knox noted numerous style errors in the documents, from abbreviations used to which side of the paper the signature fell on.

Despite the mounting evidence, CBS initially did not budge. A week after airing the memos, Andrew Heyward, the president of CBS News, simply asked the public to trust the organization's reporting: "We established to our satisfaction that the memos were accurate or we would not have put them on television. There was a great deal of coroborating [sic] evidence from people in a position to know." But on Sept. 15 Dan Rather acknowledged to The Washington Post, "If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I'd like to break that story." (Since Powerline and other blogs had broken the story a week earlier, he was a little late.)

The Post's Howard Kurtz stated that Mr. Rather acknowledged "that there are serious questions about the authenticity of the documents." Mr. Kurtz reported ominously, "Some friends of Rather, whose contract runs until the end of 2006, are discussing whether he might be forced to make an early exit from CBS."

Back in Las Vegas, few seemed inclined to believe CBS-including those who know the system best. Though no one would speak on the record, a half-dozen members of the Texas National Guard told WORLD the whole situation sounded wrong.

"If you're not in the Guard it sounds like a stupid little thing, but we always use the same abbreviations," said one member of the Army National Guard. "You can look through hundreds of my memos, and you'll never find me changing abbreviations."

Then there's the issue of where the Killian memos have been all this time. "Sure we sometimes write CYA memos," said one officer. "The Guard can be just as political as anywhere else. But what am I going to do with those memos when I leave the Guard-just leave them lying around my office? If I've kept them locked up in my desk all these years, why am I going to leave them floating around when I retire?


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