Monday, October 04, 2004

High-Value Target Eludes Karl's Klutches 

From Steve Clemons's Washington Note: Michael Moore reportedly claimed during a Sunday evening speech at the University of Central Arkansas that he had been offered the notorious Killian memos while he was filming Fahrenheit 9/11, but decided not to bite because of doubts about their authenticity.

He said the documents came to him through the same source that later shopped them to Dan Rather at 60 Minutes -- widely assumed to be Bill Burkett. Moore did not, however, mention Burkett by name.

SIDEBAR: We stumbled across the item above because our revered colleague Avedon Carol had linked to another Clemons post -- about how bloggers (let's say, oh, Josh Marshall) often break major stories (e.g., the one about Fox's fabricated Kerry quotes), but receive nary a word of acknowledgement when major papers (by which we mean NYT and WaPo) appropriate their scoops. If you find this tendency unwholesome, why not share your opinion with the gentlemen whose increasingly brutal job it is to maintain a semi-plausible facade of journalistic respectability at the aforementioned publications?

Washington Post Ombudsman: Michael Getler
New York Times Ombudsman: Daniel Okrent

UPDATE: Greg Palast, whose documentary Bush Family Fortunes came out on DVD last week, is now claiming that he too had a crack at the Killian memos:
According to Burkett, the General and his minions who work for the Governor, not the US Air Force, took this as an unsubtle hint from the boss to purge the record. Lt. Col. Burkett, both curious and disturbed by the call, wondered how his fellow comrades-in-arms would respond. His answer was in the trash-to-be-shredded bin: George Bush's military pay records. "I saw what are called LES (Leave and Earnings Statements) which are pay documents. I saw Retirement Points documents and other administrative information."

He did not see their content, only Bush's name, and therefore cannot answer the 64 million dollar question: Did those records, now "missing," indicate that our President went AWOL while others ended up on the Black Wall? . . . .

So what about that "Killian" document? We don't have it in the BBC film - we couldn't source it so we wouldn't use it. Burkett passed it on from a third party, obviously someone still in the Guard or fearful of Bush Family retribution. Now why would they imagine that?

Under pressure, Burkett gave CBS a false name to cover for the whistleblower. Burkett should not have done that. It is inexcusable. Period. Yet, that does not tell us the document was fabricated. It was the job of CBS to follow up -- they are the journalists.
If Palast seems a touch protective here, it's because Burkett is extensively interviewed in his film and credibility problems are notoriously contagious. Still, if you'd like to draw your own conclusions about the truth of Burkett's story, you can read a transcript of his 90-minute conversation with Palast here.

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