A brief fisking of CBS's statement today.
'A Preponderance of Evidence'
Wed Sep 15 2004 19:39:35 ET
The CBS News report was based on a preponderance of evidence: many interviews, both on- and off-camera, with individuals with direct and indirect knowledge of the situation, atmosphere and events of the period in question, as well as the procedures, character and thinking of Lt. Col. Killian, Lt. Bush's squadron commander in the Guard, at the time.
The report also included the first television interview with Ben Barnes, a Democrat and current fundraiser for John Kerry, who said he helped get Mr. Bush into the Texas Air National Guard at the request of a Bush family friend.
Numerous questions have been raised about the authenticity of the documents. CBS News believes it is important for the news media to be accountable and address legitimate questions.
However, CBS News also apparently believes that is appropriate to stonewall for nearly an entire week before addressing those questions. Furthermore, CBS believes that the first response should be to cast aspersions on the motivations of those questioning the report. Its not the mistake, it is the coverup afterwards.
Procurement of The Documents
The 60 MINUTES Wednesday broadcast reported that it obtained six documents from the personal files of Lt. Col. Killian, four of which were used in the broadcast. In accordance with longstanding journalistic ethics, CBS News is not prepared to reveal its confidential sources or the method by which 60 MINUTES Wednesday received the documents. CBS News' reporting determined that the source of the memos had access to the documents he provided and an opportunity to obtain copies of them. Our sources included individuals who had first-hand knowledge of the events in question.
Additionally, Mary Mapes, the producer of the report and a well-respected, veteran journalist whose credibility has never been questioned, has been following this story for more than five years. She has a vast and detailed knowledge of the issues surrounding President Bush's service in the Guard and of the individuals involved in the story. Before the report was broadcast, it was vetted and screened in accordance with CBS News standards by several veteran 60 MINUTES Wednesday senior producers and CBS News executives.
Hmmm, you would have thought Mapes might have noticed that no other documents in the Bush National Guard files resembles these documents. Now for the meat of the statement.
Authentication of the Documents
Four independent individuals with expertise in the authentication of documents were consulted prior to the broadcast of the story regarding the documents 60 MINUTES Wednesday obtained: document examiners Marcel B. Matley, James J. Pierce, Emily Will and Linda James.
Why was CBS so reticent to provide the names of these individuals? Inquiring minds want to know.
As CBS News has publicly stated, the documents used in the report were photocopies of originals.
So, when is CBS going to release high quality scans of the documents, the same quality as were provided to these experts? After all, in the initial response to critics, CBS complained that those who questioned CBS did not have access to high quality originals. A complaint CBS reiterates below.
Two of the examiners, Mssrs. Matley and Pierce, attested and continue to attest to their belief in the documents' authenticity. (see attachments 1 and 2) Two others, Ms. Will and Ms. James, appeared on a competing network yesterday, where they misrepresented their conversations and communication with CBS News. In fact, they assessed only one of the four documents used in the report, and while one of them raised a question about one aspect of that one document, they did not raise substantial objections or render definitive judgment on the document. Ultimately, they played a peripheral role in the authentication process and deferred to Mr. Matley, who examined all four of the documents used.
And we should believe CBS, why? Perhaps they could provide the world with some of the emails or other correspondence with Ms. Will and Ms. James. Perhaps they might also explain the inconsistency of this statement with what Mr. Matley has said since. I'm sure we will soon hear more from Mr. Pierce. Finally, why did CBS request that Mr. Matley not talk with the press?
Additionally, two more individuals with specific expertise relative to the documents - Bill Glennon, a technology consultant and long-time IBM typewriter service technician, and Richard Katz, a computer software expert - were asked to examine the documents after the broadcast for a report in the Sept. 13 CBS EVENING NEWS. They, too, found nothing to lead them to believe that the documents did not date back to the early 1970s. They strongly refuted the claim made by some critics that there were no typewriters in existence in the early 1970s that could have produced such documents. (see attachments 3 and 4)
Har - dee - Har Har. Please. Several other recognized and certified document experts, as well as those with vast experience in fontography and access to actual machines upon which to perform experiments (such as at Adobe) have completely and utterly discredited Mr. Glennon's recollections as an IBM Typewriter repairman. See, Joseph Newcomer, The Bush "Guard memos" are forgeries!
). Why did CBS choose to believe an "expert" with so little experience compared to the experts who other news organizations relied on?
As for Mr. Katz. I wrote a pretty darn good debunking in just a few hours (took time to make the images) of his conclusions. See, CBS Memo Defense: Richard Katz Is Wrong About Ones and Els and Little Green Footballs, Typewriter Repairman Promoted. Seriously, are we to believe these were the best "experts" CBS can find?
Oh, and by the way, how did CBS find these "experts"? Did CBS go to the society for document examiners or whatever it is called? Or did they just find people via the internet or other publications who already supported CBS's position? Is that how you should find experts as a reporter? Conclusion first, choose expert second?
CBS News Experts' Conclusions About the Documents
- Katz believes the documents were written on a typewriter and not a computer. (attachment 3)
- Glennon confirms that the superscript "th" and proportional spacing of the typeface of the four documents were definitely available on typewriters as early as the late 1960s. (attachment 4)
- Pierce believes that the documents in question are authentic as best as he can determine, given that they are copies and not originals. (attachment 2)
- Matley says the signatures are, indeed, Killian's. (attachment 1)
Um, okay, yeah.
Again, the documents used for the 60 MINUTES Wednesday report were copies, and most of the analysis fueling the current controversy is based on scanned, downloaded, faxed or re-copied copies. For now, the disagreements among "dueling experts" have not been resolved.
Uh, yeah. This is called being oblivious. Where are the better copies? The ones your experts used. Oh, right, Glennon never actually saw those original copies and neither did Katz, to my knowledge. How about a blue-ribbon panel of experts then? No. Gosh, didn't think so.
Maj. Gen. Bobby Hodges, who was group commander of Lt. Bush's squadron, has stated to The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, among others, that he believes the documents are not real, but also told The New York Times, in an article that appeared on Sept. 12, that the information in the CBS News report "...reflected issues he and Col. Killian had discussed-namely Mr. Bush's failure to appear for a physical, which military records released previously by the White House show, led to a suspension from flying." That is consistent with what he told CBS News off-camera as part of the research for this report.
And that supports the authenticity of the documents, how? I have lots of conversations with people. Most of them are not written down. Undoubtedly, Hodges discussed Bush's performance with Killian. That is how the military system works.
A reference in one memo to Gen. Buck Staudt applying pressure on behalf of Lt. Bush raised questions because Staudt had left his job 18 months before the memo was written. But CBS News' background reporting determined that Staudt remained a powerful figure in the Guard for years after his retirement, a fact that is confirmed by Ms. Knox in a newspaper interview. More importantly, the same memo referred to unhappiness in Austin, an obvious reference to Staudt's successor at the Austin, Texas, headquarters of the Texas Air National Guard.
Ok, let's see that background reporting, as it has been directly attacked by other members of the TexANG.
The editorial content of the report was not based solely on the physical documents, but also on numerous credible sources who supported what the documents said.
Misdirection. The argument is with the authenticity of the documents.
Through all of the frenzied debate of the past week, the basic content of the 60 MINUTES Wednesday report - that President Bush received preferential treatment to gain entrance to the Texas Air National Guard and that he may not have fulfilled all of the requirements -- has not been substantially challenged.
Off topic once again. "Please, please look over here, never mind that man behind the curtain."
CBS News will make every effort to resolve the contradictions and answer the unanswered questions about the documents and will continue to report on all aspects of the story.
I'm not holding my breath, considering the dissembling, stonewalling, hunkered down effort CBS has taken so far. An aggressive investigation might salvage some reputations at CBS, but CBS has demonstrated nothing like that so far.