REAL AND FAKE? Maybe Stirling Newberry was on to something after all. Last week, he raised the possibility that the contents of the Killian memos were genuine, but that the printed documents themselves were generated some years later - through retyping on a computer, through optical scanning, whatever.
Newberry also wondered whether CBS might be unable to explain this without breaking a pledge of confidentiality. That still strikes me as unlikely, given CBS's continued insistence that the documents are photocopies of the originals. In fact, if you follow this line of thinking through to its logical conclusion, then Dan Rather's defense would have to be considered a knowing lie. I doubt that.
Now the Dallas Morning News is reporting that the late Jerry Killian's 86-year-old former secretary believes the documents are fake, but that the contents accurately reflect real memos that existed at one time. Because I don't feel like registering at the News' website, I'm linking to this USA Today account. Some highlights:
Marian Carr Knox told the Dallas Morning News after viewing copies of the disputed memos, "These are not real," and that "the information in here was correct, but it was picked up from the real ones." She declined to be interviewed late Tuesday, but her son, Pat Carr, confirmed her comments.
The newspaper said that Knox, 86, had precise recollection about dates, people and events. She was critical of Bush, whom she called "unfit for office."
The memos, first reported last week by CBS' 60 Minutes and obtained independently by USA TODAY, were critical of Bush's performance as a pilot. They say he sought special treatment to get out of required drills and failed to get a required physical exam, and that there was pressure from his commander's superiors to "sugar coat" his personnel evaluation. Document experts have challenged their authenticity.
Knox told the Morning News that she did all of the typing for Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, Bush's commander, and she did not type the memos in question. The typewriters she used, a manual Olympia and later an IBM Selectric, could not have produced the documents, she said.
Another former Texas National Guard officer, Richard Via, also said that the documents were fakes but that their content reflected questions about Bush that were discussed at the time in the hangar at Ellington Air Force Base, where he had a desk next to Killian's.
Via said he and others he worked with "remember the physical, and him going to Alabama was an issue." He said Killian "made notes and put them in his files about things like that."
Killian kept the files because "he was trying to cover his ass," Via said. "He was always worried something would come back on him."
He said Killian's secretary "would type them up, and he'd put it in his desk drawer and lock it."
I think we're getting very close now. This is clearly the best news CBS has had in a week, although unless the network itself can shed further light on this, it looks kind of pathetic. It will still be in the position of having put phony documents out there and then insisting they were authentic in the face of much evidence to the contrary.
If it turns out that these are retyped versions of real memos, that helps. But it doesn't reflect well on CBS's investigative-reporting capabilities. In fact, the latest from Howard Kurtz, in the Washington Post, only make it look that much worse for Dan Rather and company. Drudge says CBS News is working on some sort of statement, and perhaps it is.
In other Killian-related matters, the Boston Globe today runs a correction for the headline on its Saturday story, "Authenticity Backed on Bush Documents." The paper says that head "did not accurately reflect the content of the story."