AP file
More than 30 years after he served in the Texas Air National Guard, President Bush is still dogged by questions about his record there.
updated 9/10/2004 8:36:58 PM ET 2004-09-11T00:36:58

As questions continued to swirl over the authenticity of documents about President Bush's Vietnam-era military service Friday, CBS News, in its evening news broadcast, strongly defended the documents reported about on "60 Minutes" earlier this week.

"This report was not based solely on recovered documents, but rather on a preponderance of evidence, including documents that were provided by unimpeachable sources, interviews with former Texas National Guard officials and individuals who worked closely back in the early 1970s with Colonel Jerry Killian and were well acquainted with his procedures, his character and his thinking," the network said in a statement reported on its Web site.

Anchor Dan Rather used similar words on the "Evening News With Dan Rather." Rather concluded by saying, “If any definitive evidence to the contrary is found, we will report it.” But for the time being, he said, “There is none.”

Documents show Bush ignored order
On their face, the documents show, among other things, that Bush ignored a direct order from a superior officer and lost his status as a Texas Air National Guard pilot more than three decades ago because he failed to meet military performance standards and undergo a required physical examination.

The papers also indicate that Bush's superiors were in a state of turmoil over how to evaluate his performance after he was suspended from flying. One military official “is pushing to sugar coat it,” one memo says of a proposed evaluation of Bush.

The documents ostensibly were written by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, one of Bush’s commanders in 1972 and 1973.

Almost as soon as the documents were made public, questions were raised about their authenticity, with some experts saying they could be forgeries based on typographical examinations.

The CBS statement released Friday said: "(T)he documents are backed up not only by independent handwriting and forensic document experts but by sources familiar with their content.”

A statement released by CBS earlier Friday indicating that the network would address the documents in its evening broadcast, said, "CBS News states with absolute certainty that the ability to produce the 'th' superscript mentioned in reports about the documents did exist on typewriters as early as 1968, and in fact is in President Bush's official military records released by the White House."

Video: Fake documents? Whether or not typewriters in use at the time Killian reportedly wrote the memos could produce such superscripts is an issue in the authenticity debate.

Some experts said the typeface used in the documents was Times New Roman, a typeface they said was not available in the 1970s. But CBS reported that the owner of the company that distributes that type style, which it did not identify, said it had been available since 1931.

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CBS said Marcel Matley, whom it identified as a “document and handwriting examiner,” examined the documents for the network. CBS said Matley expressed concern that the copies of the documents being analyzed by other parties had deteriorated through being reproduced through photopying, faxing, scanning and downloading.

Matley also concluded that Killian’s signatures on the documents are genuine, CBS reported.

White House: ‘We don’t know’
Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said Friday that the White House, which distributed the memos after obtaining them from CBS, was not trying to verify their authenticity. “We don’t know if the documents are fabricated or authentic,” McClellan told reporters traveling with the president to West Virginia.

But Killian’s son, one of Killian’s fellow officers and an independent document examiner questioned the memos. Gary Killian, who served in the Guard with his father and retired as a captain in 1991, said he doubted his father would have written an unsigned memo that said there was pressure to “sugar coat” Bush’s performance review.

“It just wouldn’t happen,” he said. “No officer in his right mind would write a memo like that.”

The personnel chief in Killian’s unit at the time also said he believes the documents are fake.

“They looked to me like forgeries,” said Rufus Martin. “I don’t think Killian would do that, and I knew him for 17 years.” Killian died in 1984.

Independent document examiner Sandra Ramsey Lines said the memos looked like they had been produced on a computer using Microsoft Word software. Lines, a document expert and fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, pointed to a superscript — a smaller, raised “th” in “111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron” — as evidence indicating forgery.

Microsoft Word automatically inserts superscripts in the same style as the two on the memos obtained by CBS, she said.

“I’m virtually certain these were computer-generated,” Lines said after reviewing copies of the documents at her office in Paradise Valley, Ariz. She produced a nearly identical document using her computer’s Microsoft Word software.

There was support, too, for the belief that the documents were genuine.

An unnamed "senior CBS official" told the Washington Post that one of the network's backup sources was retired Maj. Gen. Bobby W. Hodges, Killian's immediate superior. The CBS executive said a CBS reporter read the documents to Hodges over the phone, and that Hodges replied that "these are the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time," the Post reported Friday.

But the Post also reported that "in a telephone interview from her Texas home, Killian's widow, Marjorie Connell, described the records as 'a farce,' saying she was with her husband until the day he died in 1984 and he did not 'keep files.' She said her husband considered Bush 'an excellent pilot.'"

Bush’s Vietnam-era Air National Guard service became a focus of Democratic criticism this week amid the new reports about his activities. Democrats say Bush shirked his National Guard duties, a claim Bush denies.

Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard in 1968, serving more than a year on active Air Force duty while being trained to fly F-102A jets. He was honorably discharged from the Guard in October 1973 and left the Air Force Reserves in May 1974.

The first four months of 1972 are at the beginning of a controversial period in Bush’s Guard service. After taking his last flight in April 1972, Bush went for six months without showing up for any training drills. In September 1972 he received permission to transfer to an Alabama Guard unit so he could work on a political campaign there.

That May, Bush also skipped a required yearly medical examination. In response, his commanders grounded Bush on Aug. 1, 1972.

MSNBC wire services contributed to this story.


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