The lead expert retained by CBS News to examine disputed memos from President Bush's former squadron commander in the National Guard said yesterday that he examined only the late officer's signature and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves.
"There's no way that I, as a document expert, can authenticate them," Marcel Matley said in a telephone interview from San Francisco. The main reason, he said, is that they are "copies" that are "far removed" from the originals.
Compare: Memo obtained from Pentagon differs from disputed memo obtained by CBS.
Transcript: Washington Post staff writer Michael Dobbs, who has been following the story about Bush's Vietnam-era service, was online Monday.
Matley's comments came amid growing evidence challenging the authenticity of the documents aired Wednesday on CBS's "60 Minutes." The program was part of an investigation asserting that Bush benefited from political favoritism in getting out of commitments to the Texas Air National Guard. On last night's "CBS Evening News," anchor Dan Rather said again that the network "believes the documents are authentic."
A detailed comparison by The Washington Post of memos obtained by CBS News with authenticated documents on Bush's National Guard service reveals dozens of inconsistencies, ranging from conflicting military terminology to different word-processing techniques.
The analysis shows that half a dozen Killian memos released earlier by the military were written with a standard typewriter using different formatting techniques from those characteristic of computer-generated documents. CBS's Killian memos bear numerous signs that are more consistent with modern-day word-processing programs, particularly Microsoft Word.
"I am personally 100 percent sure that they are fake," said Joseph M. Newcomer, author of several books on Windows programming, who worked on electronic typesetting techniques in the early 1970s. Newcomer said he had produced virtually exact replicas of the CBS documents using Microsoft Word formatting and the Times New Roman font.
Newcomer drew an analogy with an art expert trying to determine whether a painting of unknown provenance was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. "If I was looking for a Da Vinci, I would look for characteristic brush strokes," he said. "If I found something that was painted with a modern synthetic brush, I would know that I have a forgery."
Meanwhile, Laura Bush became the first person from the White House to say the documents are likely forgeries. "You know they are probably altered," she told Radio Iowa in Des Moines yesterday. "And they probably are forgeries, and I think that's terrible, really."
Citing confidentiality issues, CBS News has declined to reveal the source of the disputed documents -- which have been in the network's possession for more than a month -- or to explain how they came to light after more than three decades. Yesterday, USA Today said that it had independently obtained copies of the documents "from a person with knowledge of Texas Air National Guard operations" who declined to be named "for fear of retaliation."
It was unclear whether the same person supplied the documents to both media outlets. USA Today said it had obtained its copies of the CBS documents Wednesday night "soon after" the "60 Minutes" broadcast, as well as another two purported Killian memos that had not been made public.
A detailed examination of the CBS documents beside authenticated Killian memos and other documents generated by Bush's 147th Fighter Interceptor Group suggests at least three areas of difference that are difficult to reconcile:
Word-processing techniques. Of more than 100 records made available by the 147th Group and the Texas Air National Guard, none used the proportional spacing techniques characteristic of the CBS documents. Nor did they use a superscripted "th" in expressions such as "147th Group" and or "111th Fighter Intercept Squadron."
In a CBS News broadcast Friday night rebutting allegations that the documents had been forged, Rather displayed an authenticated Bush document from 1968 that included a small "th" next to the numbers "111" as proof that Guard typewriters were capable of producing superscripts. In fact, say Newcomer and other experts, the document aired by CBS News does not contain a superscript, because the top of the "th" character is at the same level as the rest of the type. Superscripts rise above the level of the type.
Factual problems. A CBS document purportedly from Killian ordering Bush to report for his annual physical, dated May 4, 1972, gives Bush's address as "5000 Longmont #8, Houston." This address was used for many years by Bush's father, George H.W. Bush. National Guard documents suggest that the younger Bush stopped using that address in 1970 when he moved into an apartment, and did not use it again until late 1973 or 1974, when he moved to Cambridge, Mass., to attend Harvard Business School.