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The Killian documents (often referred to as the CBS documents during the 2004 US presidential campaign) were memos purportedly written by the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian. They were presented as authentic by CBS News anchor Dan Rather in a 60 Minutes story criticizing President George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard (TANG), but are judged by most typewriter and computer typography experts to be forgeries.



The authenticity of the documents was called into question almost immediately after the story was aired; eventually, in the face of mounting criticism of both the documents and the procedures used to verify them, CBS concluded that it could not demonstrate their authenticity. The affair is often referred to by conservatives as "Rathergate". Some people, especially bloggers, depict it as a milestone in the shift of power away from traditional centralized news sources caused by the emergence of Internet technologies, while others doubt its lasting significance.

The memos, supposedly written in 1972 and 1973, were used by CBS News producer Mary Mapes as the basis for a 60 Minutes segment broadcast on September 8, 2004. The documents were claimed to show that Bush disobeyed orders while in the Guard, and had undue influence exerted on his behalf to improve his record. Colonel Killian's secretary, Marian Carr Knox, denies typing the memos but insists they reflect the truth about Lieutenant Bush.

After controversy about the authenticity of the documents erupted, many document authentication experts consulted by other major media entities cast doubt on the memos. [1] (http://abcnews.go.com/sections/Politics/Vote2004/bush_documents_040909.html) [2] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A9967-2004Sep9.html) Afterwards, CBS News concluded that it could not prove the authenticity of documents; that its source, Bill Burkett, had lied to it about how he got the documents; and that airing the story was a "mistake" that CBS regretted. [3] (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/09/06/politics/main641481.shtml) Dan Rather, the reporter on the story, has apologized. [4] (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/09/20/politics/main644546.shtml)

Burkett, a former Texas Army National Guard officer, has been extremely critical of President Bush in the past [5] (http://onlinejournal.com/bush/031903Burkett/031903burkett.html) and has previously claimed that Bush's National Guard record files had been purged. [6] (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2004/02/13/doubts_raised_on_bush_accuser?mode=PF) Burkett admits he misled CBS and now claims that the documents came to him from another source, one CBS has yet been unable to verify. [7] (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/09/20/politics/main644539.shtml)

After CBS ran its story USA Today received copies of the four documents used by CBS and two additional memos. [8] (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2004-09-09bushdocs.pdf) USA Today has identified Burkett as the source for this set of documents. [9] (http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/president/2004-09-21-cover-guard_x.htm)

Copies of the documents were first released to the public by the White House. Press Secretary Scott McClellan stated that the memos had been provided to them by CBS in the days prior to the report and that, "We had every reason to believe that they were authentic at that time." Critics have suggested that this belief of authenticity by the White House could not have existed if the memos contained information they knew to be inaccurate.


The Killian documents are generally believed to be forgeries, although some people feel this has not been proven with certainty. The Thornburgh/Boccardi Panel, which investigated the conduct of CBS News in the controversy, did not reach a definite conclusion on the question. However, experts in typewriter and computer typography, including Peter Tytell, a document examiner and typewriter expert [10] (http://wwwimage.cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/complete_report/appendix_4.pdf), Thomas Phinney, an Adobe computer font expert [11] (http://www.creativepro.com/story/feature/21939.html?cprose=5-39), and Joseph Newcomer, a computer typography pioneer and Windows typography expert [12] (http://www.flounder.com/bush2.htm), have concluded on the basis of typographical analysis that the documents are forgeries. The conclusion by these experts that the Killian documents are forgeries is based in part on analysis of the letterspacing, as follows:

The typography of the Killian documents can be matched with a modern personal computer and printer using Microsoft Word with the default font (Times New Roman) and other settings. Therefore the equipment with which the Killian documents were actually produced must have been capable of matching the typographical characteristics produced by this modern technology.
But the letterspacing of the Times New Roman font used by Microsoft Word with a modern personal computer and printer employs a system of 18 units relative to the letter height (em), with common characters being 5 to 17 units wide. (The technology allows even finer variability of character widths, but the 18 unit system was chosen for compatibility with the Linotype phototypesetting and earlier hot-metal versions of the font.) In contrast, the variability of character widths available on early 1970s typewriters using proportional letterspacing was more limited, due to the mechanical technology employed. The most sophisticated of these machines, the IBM Selectric Composer, used a system of 9 units relative to the letter height, in which all characters were 3 to 9 units wide. Less complex machines used fewer widths.
Differences in individual character widths accumulate over the length of a line, so that comparatively small differences become readily apparent. Because of the differing character widths employed, the letterspacing exhibited by the Killian documents (matching that produced by a modern computer and printer) could not have been produced with a mechanical typewriter using proportional letterspacing in the early 1970s. At the time the documents were purportedly created, the matching letterspacing could only have been produced using phototypesetting or hot-metal printing. But is not a realistic possibility that Killian would have had these documents printed, so it must be concluded that they are modern forgeries.

Allegations purportedly supported by memos

The Killian documents include the following accusations:

  1. An order directing Bush to submit to a physical examination. This order was not carried out.
  2. A note of a telephone conversation with Bush in which Bush sought to be excused from "drill." The note records that Bush said he did not have the time to attend to his National Guard duties because of his responsibilities with the Blount campaign.
  3. A note that Killian had grounded Bush from flying for failing to live up to the standards of the U.S. Air Force and the National Guard and for failure to submit to a physical examination. Killian also requested that a flight inquiry board be convened, as required by regulations, to examine the reasons for Bush's loss of flight status.
  4. A note (labeled "CYA" for "cover your ass") claiming that Killian was being pressured from above to give Bush better marks in his yearly evaluation than he had earned. The note attributed to Killian says that he was being asked to "sugarcoat" Bush's performance. "I'm having trouble running interference [for Bush] and doing my job."

Brigadier General David L. McGinnis (ret'd), who once worked for an assistant Secretary of Defense, said that the documents proved that Bush did not complete his national service commitments, even if the records showed that he had been paid during this time. Lawrence Korb said that a truthful evaluation by Killian would have resulted in Bush's being drafted for active duty in Vietnam. The two men made these statements immediately following the CBS broadcast, apparently on the assumption that the documents were genuine. Aside from the documents newly publicized by CBS, however, Korb, who was an Assistant Secretary of Defense during the administration of Ronald Reagan, had already concluded, based on undisputed records, that Bush did not fulfill his Guard obligations and could have been ordered to active duty as a result. [13] (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2004/09/08/bush_fell_short_on_duty_at_guard/)

Initial skepticism

A few hours after the release of the 60 Minutes II segment, a discussion began on Free Republic, a right-wing Internet forum. This quickly spread to various weblogs that the copies of these memos from the CBS News website displayed characteristics inconsistent with being produced by 1972 typewriter technology. These claims quickly found their way into the mainstream press, and the following night CBS News gave a firm rebuttal. The initial skepticism appeared in the following posts on Free Republic:

"TankerKC," 19 minutes after the broadcast began: "[The documents are] not in the style that we used when I came into the USAF...Can we get a copy of those memos?"
"Buckhead," responding less than four hours later: "Howlin, every single one of these memos to file is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman. In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing, and typewriters used monospaced fonts...I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old. This should be pursued aggressively."

"Buckhead," who quickly became an Internet folk hero of sorts, was later revealed to be Atlanta lawyer Harry W. MacDougald, who has worked for conservative groups such as the Federalist Society and the Southeastern Legal Foundation and helped draft the petition to the Arkansas Supreme Court for the disbarment of President Bill Clinton. [14] (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002039080_buckhead18.html) MacDougald's identity and the fact that he posted specific technical complaints about the memos so soon after the broadcast has fueled speculation among the political left of a right-wing conspiracy.

Various conservative discussion groups and Internet blogs quickly picked on the story, some contributing evidence of forgery (notably Power Line and Little Green Footballs). Left-wing blogs tended to be skeptical of this. As one poster on the liberal blog Daily Kos wrote in a preface to his rebuttal of forgery arguments:

"As everyone on the planet no doubt knows by now, the hard-right of the freeper* contingent ... discovered that if you used the same typeface, you could make documents that looked almost — but not exactly — like the TANG documents discovered by CBS News."[15] (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/9/10/34914/1603)

Independent media and blog sites accused CBS of expert shopping. This charge only escalated as CBS responded to the controversy with an expert named Bill Glennon to defend the documents. Glennon, a former typewriter repairman with no specific credentials in typesetting beyond that job, was found by CBS after posting several opinionated defenses of the memos on left wing blog sites such as Daily Kos.

* Freeper is a nickname for a participant in the Free Republic forums.

CBS' response

CBS News initially claimed the documents were "thoroughly vetted by independent experts" and that they "are convinced of their authenticity." On September 10, a CBS memo reiterated their confidence in the authenticity of the documents, which they said were "backed up not only by independent handwriting and forensic document experts but by sources familiar with their content" and insisted that no internal investigation would take place. Dan Rather, appearing on CNN, asserted "I know that this story is true. I believe that the witnesses and the documents are authentic. We wouldn't have gone to air if they would not have been."

CBS interviewed Robert Strong, a friend of Killian's who ran the Texas Air National Guard administrative office at the time. Strong believed the documents are authentic, saying "They are compatible with the way business was done at the time. They are compatible with the man that I remember Jerry Killian being." [16] (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/09/10/politics/main642729.shtml) CBS also cited Killian's immediate superior at the time, Major General Bobby W. Hodges, who reportedly said that the memos were familiar to him and that details read to him over the phone were "the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time." [17] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A9967-2004Sep9) [18] (http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/091204dnpolbushguard.11076.html) According to Hodges, when CBS read portions of the memos to him he simply stated, "well if he wrote them that's what he felt." [19] (http://abcnews.go.com/sections/politics/NotedNow/Noted_Now.html) However, Hodges later claimed that he was misled by CBS and that the quote does not reflect what he said.

After further investigation, CBS News stated on September 20 that their source, Bill Burkett, "admits that he deliberately misled the CBS News producer working on the report, giving her a false account of the documents' origins to protect a promise of confidentiality to the actual source." The network did not state that the memos were forgeries [20] (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/09/06/politics/main641481.shtml), but CBS News president Andrew Heyward did state "Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report. We should not have used them. That was a mistake, which we deeply regret."

Soon after, CBS established a review panel "to help determine what errors occurred in the preparation of the report and what actions need to be taken." [21] (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/09/22/politics/main644969.shtml) Dick Thornburgh, former governor of Pennsylvania and United States Attorney General, and Louis Boccardi, retired president and chief executive officer and former executive editor of the Associated Press, make up the two-person review board.

The actual question of whether or not the documents were genuine was beyond the panel's purview, so it was not considered in any depth. However, the panel did criticize CBS's "rigid and blind" defense of the memos long after it was generally agreed they could not be substantiated. CBS responded by firing producer Mary Mapes, and forcing the resignations of senior vice president Betsy West, who had been in charge of all prime time newscasts, 60 Minutes Wednesday executive producer Josh Howard, and Howard's top deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy, and apologizing to CBS viewers.

Typographical questions

Proportional fonts

The majority of typewriters available in 1972 used fixed width fonts. Typewriters with proportional fonts were first introduced in 1941, mass-produced from 1948 onwards, and were in widespread use by 1972.

The most common typewriter available in 1972 with proportional font support and a similar (though not exact) [22] (http://shapeofdays.typepad.com/the_shape_of_days/2004/09/the_ibm_selectr.html) match to the font some claim was used in the memos (11-point Press Roman vs. 12-point Times New Roman) is the IBM Selectric Composer. The IBM Executive supported a single serifed proportional font that is very different from the Selectric Composer font that most closely matches the font some believe is used in the memos; however, the actual font used is almost impossible to identify, and various fonts supported by the Selectric and the Executive are likely candidates.

Charles Johnson's animated GIF image comparing what CBS claimed to be a 1973-era typewritten memo with a 2004-era Microsoft Word document made with default settings
Charles Johnson's animated GIF image comparing what CBS claimed to be a 1973-era typewritten memo with a 2004-era Microsoft Word document made with default settings

Bill Glennon, a technology consultant in New York City with typewriter repair experience from 1973 to 1985 who was recruited by CBS as an expert on the documents' authenticity after defending them on several liberal blogs such as Daily Kos, said experts making the claim that typewriters were incapable of producing the memos "are full of crap. They just don't know." He said there were IBM machines capable of producing the spacing, and a customized key — the likes of which he said were not unusual — for creating the superscript th (discussed below). [23] (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/printout/0,8816,1101040920-695873,00.html) Responding directly to Glennon was Thomas Phinney, program manager for fonts at Adobe Systems. Phinney stated that the memos could not have been produced with 1970s typewriters or low-end typesetters, such as the IBM Executive or Selectric Composer machines, due to differences in letter width and spacing. [24] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18982-2004Sep13.html)

Phinney's view is supported by some typeface designers. The theory is that each time a typeface is redeveloped for new technology, the widths, heights or designs will vary slightly. Hence Times Roman on an Apple LaserWriter is different from the Times New Roman on Windows operating systems.

Desktop magazine in Australia analysed the documents in its November 2004 issue and concluded that the typeface was a post-1985 version of Times Roman, rather than Times New Roman, both of which are different in detail to IBM Press Roman. The article did not dispute that superscripts and proportional fonts were available in the 1970s.

The Selectric Composer cost $3,600 to $4,400 in 1973 dollars ($16,000 to $22,000 in 2004 dollars). (Regular Selectrics were available second-hand for around $150 [25] (http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2004/9/10/34914/1603/348?mode=alone;showrate=1#348), but could not have produced the documents in question.) Most of the known genuine documents from Bush's ANG base were typed using the more typical fixed width fonts commonly associated with typewriters. However, one document released by the Pentagon on September 24 (well after the controversy erupted) uses a proportionally spaced font similar (but not identical) to the font used in the Killian memos [26] (http://www.bluelemur.com/index.php?p=324).

Sophisticated spacing

Some argue that the Killian memos display kerning, a sophisticated character spacing that is ubiquitous with word-processing documents and uncommon in typewriters in 1972. Technically, Microsoft Word does not perform true kerning by default, but the TrueType engine used by Windows supports something called "hinting" or pseudo-kerning, which is not implemented on mechanical typewriters.

Some typewriters that were available at the time, the IBM Executive and the IBM Selectric Composer, were capable of kerning. However, on these typewriters, kerning required additional operations such as backspacing or manually moving the carriage back slightly.

Word wrapping

Because a typewriter does not have the ability to know what the user is going to type next, it is up to the typist to decide when to move the carriage to the next line. Often, a typist will use hyphenation to split a word between two lines on a syllable boundary, while computer word processors (and Microsoft Word in particular) do not do this by default. The lines in the memos are split along word boundaries at the exact location where Microsoft Word would have split them. However, since Microsoft Word was specifically designed to produce output similar to that of a professional office typewriter, that is not surprising.

Superscripted "th"

The Killian Memos display superscripted "th" glyphs in a smaller font on numbers (such as 111th) that are generated automatically by Microsoft Word but some claim would require excessive effort to create using most 1972 typewriters.

Dan Rather has pointed out several documents of unquestioned authenticity in the Bush records have apparently superscripted 'th' characters interspersed throughout. However, these are not technically superscripts, since they are not raised above the level of the normal text, like an actual superscript would be. The CBS memos show signs of such raised superscripts.

However, the superscripts in the CBS memos are mathematically reduced versions of the standard letters, suggesting computer production. Traditionally, superscripts in metal type differed from standard letters by being proportionally wider and heavier, so that when set, they looked the same "weight".

Lt. Col. Jerry Killian's former secretary, Marian Carr Knox, who worked from 1956 to 1979 at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston, recalls that during her time at the Guard, she used a mechanical Olympia typewriter, which did have a special 'th' key. (This 'th' character was the same weight as the other characters.) She said it was replaced by an IBM Selectric in the early 1970s. She asserts that the memos are not real, as the typeface does not match either of the two typewriters and that she would have remembered typing them. [27] (http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/091504dnpolnatguard.1185eb4ae.html) However, she also says that the content of the memos is genuine, and speculates that they may have been copied from originals that Killian had her type in the early 1970s. [28] (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/15/politics/campaign/15guard.html?pagewanted=print&position=top)

Centered headers

Shortly after suspicions emerged over the memos' authenticity bloggers at ChronicallyBiased [29] (http://www.chronicallybiased.com) discovered that two of the memos, dated May 4 and August 1, 1972, feature a three-line centered heading which aligns exactly, not only between the two memos (dated three months apart), but also with a comparison document created using the auto-centering feature of Microsoft Word.[30] (http://shapeofdays.typepad.com/the_shape_of_days/2004/09/the_ibm_selectr.html)

In terms of approximation, centering headers, even if the font is proportional, is not necessarily difficult. For example, one can left-justify the header and then use the space bar to count the number of spaces from the end of the text to the right margin. The IBM Executive and Selectric also have a kerning key which would give a more accurate measure of the whitespace. Once this number is determined, halving it gives the number of leading spaces for the approximately centered header. While a skilled typist could produce reasonably centered single-line headers using this technique, perfectly centering three lines in succession (as is found in the address block of two different Killian memos) and in relation to each other is highly improbable due to the slightest typing variations, to say nothing of human error.

Word processors, by contrast, center text based on a computer algorithm that justifies a word or row of words from a fixed center point of the page as opposed to the left margin on the typewriter. Since it adjusts text around a consistent center line and not an approximated center as measured from the paper's edge this algorithm ensures virtually perfect centering that is consistent from line to line in successive blocks of text. When overlayed with a word processor-centered 3 line address block found on two Killian memos and a 2 line block on another, the allegedly typed text matches perfectly with that produced by a computer. The probability of a typewriter user perfectly centering successive lines of text to both the page itself and to each other on at least three different dates is very remote, making the centering issue a strong piece of evidence against the memos' authenticity.

Smart quotes

Another feature of computer word processors such as Microsoft Word is "smart quotes"—the automatic translation of typed apostrophes and quotation marks depending on context. While typewriters of that era generally only supported a single kind of apostrophe ( ' ) and a single kind of quotation mark ( " ), word processors have the ability to display curved marks like those used in typeset text. An example from the Killian memo is the word "I’m", which would have been rendered as "I'm" on a typewriter or computer word processor without this feature. Word processors can also convert typed quotation marks into curved left and right marks, so "this" automatically becomes “this”. Double quotation marks are not used in any of the Killian memos. (You may have to enlarge the font size of your browser or print this page in order to see the difference between the two kinds of apostrophes.)

This image (http://www.etypewriters.com/1954-b-2.JPG) of a 1954 advertisment for an IBM Executive typewriter allegedly shows the ability of that machine to produce left and right quote marks. However, close examination where the individual pixels are visible shows the resolution of the image is too low to make such a determination. Many analysts have disqualified the IBM Executive on other grounds, particularly the typeface and spacing differences (see above).

Reproduction of the documents using modern technology

Several experiments have suggested that the memos could be duplicated with the default settings in Microsoft Word 2003 [31] (http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=12526_Bush_Guard_Documents-_Forged) — apparent evidence of a word processing origin. Many consider this fact to be too great a coincidence to explain away; for them, it is incontrovertible proof that the memos are amateurish forgeries. Others have pointed out that duplicating the output of an executive office typewriter was a specific design goal of Word, with Microsoft going so far as to acquire its fonts from the same source used by IBM.

The underlying suggestion that the documents produced are identical has also been disputed by liberal sites such as Daily Kos, which pointed out that there were letters and words in the original which were not aligned properly, as well as variations in the boldness of letters, and even in the shapes of certain numbers. [32] (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/9/10/34914/1603)[33] (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/14/politics/campaign/14guard.html?pagewanted=2) Some of these observations, even if substantiated, could still be explained as common by-products of FAX transmission and/or repeated photocopying (a technique often used by forgers to give the appearance of age). One approach, using a custom computer algorithm to find the best alignment between the scanned memo and the Word version, seems to show an exact overlay, demonstrating how the low fidelity of the CBS documents can give the appearance of differences between individual letters in the two versions due to the random "thickening" introduced during the FAXing and/or photocopying process [34] (http://mysite.verizon.net/vze6vxcr/). However, the same low fidelty also aids the appearance of an exact overlay, as the re-sizing of the CBS documents obscures details.

Some claim that this (http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=12526) screenshot of an Word document is an exact replica. Daily Kos readers again purported the existence of an inconsistent baseline in the original and divergent locations of the 'th' supercript [35] (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/9/10/34914/1603). In response, the creator of the screenshot printed the Word document to a PDF and obtained a much closer match to the superscript [36] (http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=12544_Yet_Another_CBS_Document_Experiment). In Microsoft Word, the 'th' superscript is drawn in a different location on the screen than it is when printed. Another experiment showed that faxing, scanning, and copying a Word document creates random baseline irregularities [37] (http://www.poweroftheindividual.org/blog/2004/09/fauhxed-bush-memos.html). It has been reported that at least one of the documents obtained by CBS had a fax header indicating it had been faxed from a Kinko's copy center [38] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24635-2004Sep15.html).

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs published an animated GIF of one of the CBS memos and a version he typed in Microsoft Word on Mac OS X using the software's default settings. The overlay (http://homepage.mac.com/cfj/.Pictures/aug1873-pdf-animate.gif) allows easy examination of Johnson's claim that the two are nearly identical. When using other versions of Microsoft Word or alternative products such as Wordperfect, with their default settings on, such an exact match is not usually obtained [39] (http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=12677_Word_5_vs._Word_2004).

Inability to reproduce using contemporary technology

Thus far, no one has been able to reproduce the exact typography, spacing and layout of the Killian memos using technology available in 1972. (One critic even offers a reward of over $50,000 to anyone who can "reasonably" duplicate the memos using the default setup of a 1972 typewriter. [40] (http://defeatjohnjohn.com/2004/09/fight-continues.htm)) As described above, this situation contrasts significantly from that regarding 'modern' technology, in that many find reproductions made with Microsoft Word to be convincingly exact, while others disagree. No reproduction using contempory technology has proven as convincing.

No similar contemporary documents

The Washington Post reported that "[o]f 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"[41] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18982-2004Sep13.html). This raises the question of the likelihood of a National Guard office having access to this type of equipment. However, on September 24, 2004, just four days after CBS admitted it couldn't authenticate the Killian memos, another PDF packet of Bush's Guard records appeared on a Pentagon site containing the full master list of the officially released records. [42] (http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/foi/bush_records) The PDF packet is simply labeled "Documents Released on September 24, 2004," and the sixth document, dated February 19, 1971 and titled "Appointment and Federal Recognition," is proportionally spaced. While it appears to be of a different font style than that used in the Killian memos, it is apparently the first officially released document that is in some sort of obviously proportionally spaced font.

One's versus Ell's

On September 13th, CBS Evening News introduced two new claimed experts to vouch for the authenticity of the memos. One of the individuals, a software designer named Richard Katz, claimed that a lower case ell was used in place of the numeral one in the memos. Further, he claimed that this would be difficult to duplicate on a computer today. Mr. Katz did not elaborate on how he was able to determine ell's were used in place of one's and why it would be difficult to duplicate on a computer.

There is speculation that Mr. Katz was referring to the fact that early typewriters did not have a one or zero key and that typists learned to use ell's and the letter "O" in their place. However, analysis by other individuals have shown that it is exceedingly difficult to discern a one from a lowercase ell even when dealing with a pristine original, let alone poor quality photocopies. Further, the one discerning trait that can be analyzed, the character space occupied by ell's versus one's, indicates that the typist did in fact use one's rather than ell's where the numeric character was appropriate. [43] (http://www.corante.com/importance/archives/006148.php)

Other issues

In addition to the typographical concerns, other issues have been raised regarding the content and formatting of the memos.


Of the documents, only the May 4 memo bears a full signature. This signature was confirmed as authentic by Marcel Matley [44] (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/11/politics/campaign/11guard.html), an expert consulted by CBS. Matley examined only the signature and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves [45] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18982-2004Sep13.html). A different independent certified forensic document examiner said Killian did not sign the documents [46] (http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20040910-104821-5968r.htm).

Skepticism from Killian's family and others

Jerry Killian's wife and son argued that their father never used typewriting equipment and would have written these memos by hand. The family also stated that Killian was not known for keeping personal memos and that he had been very pleased with George Bush's performance in his TANG unit.

In contrast, Killian's secretary at the time, Marian Carr Knox, stated, "We did discuss Bush's conduct and it was a problem Killian was concerned about. I think he was writing the memos so there would be some record that he was aware of what was going on and what he had done." She added that Killian had her type the memos and locked them away in his private files. She did not believe the CBS documents were real, due to inconsistencies, but said the content is accurate and was perhaps copied from the originals. Gary Killian, Killian's son, disputed her version of the history. [47] (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/15/politics/campaign/15guard.html?pagewanted=print&position=top)

Earl W. Lively, who at the time was the commanding officer at the Austin TANG facility was quoted in the Washington Times as saying, "They're forged as hell."

Mention of influence by retired officer

An officer, Walter Staudt, cited in the memo dated August 18, 1973 as exerting pressure on officers to "sugar coat" their evaluations of Bush, had in fact retired from the service in March of 1972. Defenders contend that Staudt could have continued to exert influence after his retirement.

Staudt, however, in an exclusive interview with ABC Sept 17th, has denied this. ABC News "Speaking Out" (http://abcnews.go.com/sections/Politics/Vote2004/staudt_bush_040917-1.html) Staudt said he never tried to influence Killian or other Guardsmen, and added that he never came under any pressure himself to accept Bush. "No one called me about taking George Bush into the Air National Guard," he said. "It was my decision. I swore him in. I never heard anything from anybody. And I never pressured anybody about George Bush because I had no reason to," Staudt told ABC News in his first interview since the documents were made public.

Unsubstantiated Content

One of the memos indicates that Killian had requested that a flight inquiry board be convened to examine the causes of Bush's loss of flight status. However, no records of this request or the flight inquiry board itself have been found. Regulations required such a review following the grounding of any pilot.

Improper formatting

According to U.S. Air Force practice of the 1970s, the memo dated "04 May 1972" should have had the date formatted as "4 May 72". Months were abbreviated to three characters, leading zeros were not used, and only the last two digits of the year were used up until the year 2000. In this memo, other discrepancies include:[48] (http://powerlineblog.com/archives/007767.php#007767)

  • The terminology "MEMORANDUM FOR" was never used in the 1970s.
  • The abbreviations in this letter are incorrectly formatted, in that a period is used after military rank (1st Lt.). According to the Air Force style manual, periods are not used in military rank abbreviations.
  • The abbreviation for Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS) includes periods after each capital letter. Again, periods are not used.
  • In paragraph 1, the phrase "not later than" is spelled out, followed by (NLT). NLT was, and is, a widely recognized abbreviation for "not later than" throughout all military services, so the inclusion of "not later than" was not a generally accepted practice and completely unnecessary in a letter from one military member to another.
  • According to an ex-Guard commander, retired Col. Bobby W. Hodges, the Guard never used the abbreviation "grp" for "group" or "OETR" for an officer evaluation review, as in the CBS documents. The correct terminology, he said, is "gp" and "OER."[49] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18982-2004Sep13_2.html)
  • Lieutenant Colonel Killian's signature element is incorrect for letters prepared in the 1970s. This letter uses a three-line signature element, which was normally not used. Three-line signature elements were almost the exclusive domain of colonels and generals in organizations well above the squadron level.
  • Finally, the signature element is placed far to the right, instead of being left justified. The placement of the signature element to the right was not used or directed by Air Force standards until almost 20 years after the date of this letter.

Paper size

In 1921, two different committees decided on standard paper sizes for the United States. A group called the Permanent Conference on Printing established the 8" by 10" size as the general U.S. government letterhead standard, while a Committee on the Simplification of Paper Sizes came up with the more familiar 8" by 11" size now known as US Letter. The U.S. military used the smaller size up until the early 1980s. So a low-quality photocopy of the memos might have shown thin vertical lines or some other indication of the smaller paper size in a photocopy of the memos if they had been typed on the 8" by 10" paper.[50] (http://www.afandpa.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Pulp_and_Paper/Fun_Facts/The_U_S__Standard_Paper_Size.htm)

CBS's "smoking gun"

CBS authenticated their documents with General Robert "Bobby" Hodges, a former officer at the Texas Air National Guard. Hodges agreed with CBS's assessment that the documents were real. However, he declined CBS's request that he give an interview and review the documents in person. The authentication was performed via telephone. Once Hodges had seen the documents and heard of claims of forgery by Killian's wife and son, he stated that they had been falsified. Hodges also claims that when CBS interviewed him, he thought the memos were handwritten, not typed. ([51] (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/12/politics/campaign/12guard.html) New York Times, September 12, 2004)

Inconsistency with Killian's earlier memos

The memos released by CBS appear to be inconsistent with earlier memorandums, written by Killian, and released by the Department of Defense. According to the Washington Post on September 14, 2004, "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..." The language and terminology in the memos also differed from standard military usage, (for example, in the use of abbreviations, and in punctuation).

In fact, on September 14, 2004, Marian Carr Knox stated that the memos were not written by Killian.

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