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Thursday, September 09, 2004

Fontasy Island 

The notion that our font-savvy counterparts on the right side of blogworld are busy promulgating as we type (see this site for more detail than you will ever be able to absorb): the damning memos from Gen. Jerry Killian are all forgeries, produced by a word-processing program as opposed to a 70's-era typewriter. Major bones of contention:Semi-relevant personal anecdote: around 1970 or '71, when our beleaguered school paper was no longer able to afford professional typesetting, we began compositing text on a proportional-spacing typewriter, which was capable of superscripting. (We don't remember what the 4's looked like.) Kevin Drum of Political Animal has this to say:
For what it's worth, I spoke to someone a few minutes ago who's familiar with how the documents were vetted, and the bottom line is that CBS is very, very confident that the memos are genuine. They believe that (a) their sources are rock solid, (b) the provenance of the documents is well established, and (c) the appearance of the documents matches the appearance of other documents created at the same place and time. In addition, people who knew Killian well have confirmed that the memos are genuine.

This won't stop the arguments, of course, since CBS's sources are anonymous and are apparently going to stay that way. But while caveat emptor is always good advice, I thought it was worth passing on the fact that CBS is pretty sure of itself on this.
Be sure to read the highly educational comments thread underneath.

UPDATE: Drum has since linked to a Washington Post article on the controversy:
The Washington Post reports that a "senior CBS official" named one of their sources as Killian's immediate superior, retired Maj. Gen. Bobby W. Hodges. (I was told the same thing by my source.) The memos were read to Hodges over the phone and he confirmed that "these are the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time." And: "The senior CBS official said the network had talked to four typewriting and handwriting experts 'who put our concerns to rest' and confirmed the authenticity of Killian's signature."

However, CBS refused to say who their experts were, and Killian's widow scoffed at their story:
"I don't think there were any documents. He was not a paper person," she said, adding that she was "livid" at CBS. A CBS reporter contacted her briefly before Wednesday night's broadcasts, she said, but did not ask her to authenticate the records.
In other words, things are still up in the air. At this point, there are enough legitimate questions about these memos that I really think CBS is going to have to provide additional information if they want them to be taken seriously.
UPDATE II: Josh Marshall found a superscripted "th" in the official Bush service records.

UPDATE III (via Zemblan patriot M.U.): Zelda Morgan, Mercenary Journalist backs up our personal recollections.

UPDATE IV: Here's an interesting long post from "Military Retiree" in the comments section of Raw Story:
Officers who wrote evaluations, efficiency reports or fitness reports on juniors (reporting seniors) commonly kept a “personal file” (P file) with copies of these reports. The reason for this was in the event the original, that went to the permanent files of the applicable service, was lost, the reporting senior would be contacted to provide a replacement. This was important because a missing report could prevent an officer from being promoted. If you wrote fitness reports, you were required to maintain a file of copies for something like 20 years. Usually, you would haul the file from one office to the next, not keep it at home. You arrived at a new assignment, and tossed your P file in your safe.

It was common practice also to write a memo for the record/memo to file/CYA (yes, the term was used) report when the order did not match the regulations, but you weren’t totally sure if the order was illegal. In these cases, a concientious officer would usually raise the points of contention with the superior, and if he said do it anyway, you wrote a CYA and dropped it in your P file, and hoped for the best.

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