Skip to comments.CBS News Concludes It Was Misled on National Guard Memos, Network Officials Say
Posted on 09/19/2004 9:40:13 PM PDT by LibWhacker
After days of expressing confidence about the documents used in a "60 Minutes'' report that raised new questions about President Bush's National Guard service, CBS News officials have grave doubts about the authenticity of the material, network officials said last night.
Those officials, who asked not to be identified, said CBS News would most likely make an announcement as early as today that it had been deceived about the documents' origins, and that it was mounting an intensive news investigation of where they came from.
But these people cautioned that CBS News could still pull back from an announcement. Officials were meeting last night with Dan Rather, the anchor who presented the report, to go over the information it has collected about the documents one last time before making a final decision.
People at the network said it was now possible that officials would open a formal internal inquiry into how it moved forward with the report, which officials now say they are beginning to believe was too flawed to have gone on the air.
The report relied in large part on four memorandums purported to be from the personal file of Mr. Bush's squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, who died 20 years ago. The memos, dated from the early 1970's, said that Colonel Killian was under pressure to "sugar coat'' the record of the young Lieutenant Bush and that the officer had disobeyed a direct order to take a physical.
Mr. Rather and others at the network are said to still believe that the sentiment in the memos accurately reflected Mr. Killian's feelings, but that the documents' authenticity is now in grave doubt.
The developments last night marked a dramatic turn for CBS News, which for a week stood steadfastly by its Sept. 8 report as various document experts asserted that the typeface of the memos could have been produced only by a modern-day word processor, not Vietnam War-era typewriters.
The seemingly unflappable confidence of Mr. Rather and top news division officials in the documents allayed fears within the network and created doubt among some in the news media at large that those specialists were correct. CBS News officials had said they had reason to be certain that the documents indeed came from the personal file of Colonel Killian.
Sandy Genelius, a network spokeswoman, said last week, "We are confident about the chain of custody; we're confident in how we secured the documents.''
But officials decided yesterday that they would most likely have to declare that they were misled about the records' origin after Mr. Rather and a top network executive, Betsy West, met in Texas with a man who was said to have helped the news division obtain the memos, a former Guard officer named Bill Burkett.
Mr. Rather interviewed Mr. Burkett on camera this weekend, and several people close to the reporting process said his answers to Mr. Rather's questions led officials to conclude that their initial confidence that the memos came from Mr. Killian's own files was not warranted. These people indicated that Mr. Burkett had previously led the producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, to have the utmost confidence in the material.
It was unclear last night whether Mr. Burkett told Mr. Rather that he had been misled about the documents' provenance or that he had been the one who did the misleading.
In an e-mail message yesterday, Mr. Burkett declined to answer any questions about the documents.
Yesterday, Emily J. Will, a document specialist who inspected the records for CBS News and said last week that she had raised concerns about their authenticity with CBS News producers, confirmed a report in Newsweek that a producer had told her that the source of the documents had said they were obtained anonymously and through the mail.
During an interview last night she declined to name the producer who told her this but said that the producer had been in a position to know. CBS News officials have disputed her contention that she warned the network the night before the initial "60 Minutes'' report that it would face questions from documents experts.
In the coming days CBS News officials plan to focus on how the network moved ahead with the report when there were warning signs that the memorandums were not genuine.
Ms. Will is one of two documents experts consulted by the network who said they raised doubts about the material before the segment was broadcast. Another expert, Marcel B. Matley, said in interviews that he had only vouched for Colonel Killian's signatures on the records and not the authenticity of the records themselves. Mr. Matley said he could not rule out that the signatures were cut and pasted from official records pertaining to Colonel Killian.
In examining where the network went wrong, officials at CBS News were turning their attention to Ms. Mapes, one of their most respected producers, who was riding particularly high this year after breaking news about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal for the network.
In a telephone interview this weekend, Josh Howard, the executive producer of the "60 Minutes'' Wednesday edition, said he did not initially know who was Ms. Mapes' primary source for the documents but that he did not see any reason to doubt them. He said he believed Ms. Mapes and her team had appropriately answered all questions about the documents' authenticity and, he noted, no one seemed to be casting doubt upon the essential thrust of the report.
"The editorial story line was still intact, and still is, to this day,'' he said, "and the reporting that was done in it was by a person who has turned in decades of flawless reporting with no challenge to her credibility.''
He added, "We in management had no sense that the producing team wasn't completely comfortable with the results of the document analysis.''
Ms. Mapes has not responded to requests for comment.
Mr. Howard also said in the interview that the White House did not dispute the veracity of the documents when it was presented them on the morning of the report. That reaction, he said, was "the icing on the cake'' of the other reporting the network was conducting on the documents. White House officials have said they saw no reason to challenge documents that had been presented by a credible news organization.
Several people familiar with the situation said that they were girding for a particularly tough week for Mr. Rather and the news division should the network announce its new doubts.
One person close to the situation said the critical question would be, "Where was everybody's judgment on that last day?''
All of the above?
Righto, Danny. Just take a number over there by the donut tray. It'll be a couple of weeks or so before they call yours. So just kick back, get fat, and watch the pro's.
Not to mention that it was Kerry's home newspaper newspaper the Boston Globe that printed the equivalent of "forged photos" and claimed they were really from Abu Ghraib. Wonder who fed those to them?
Do you think you could sell this (literally and figuratively) to the New York Times? < /sarc>
That's nice - we still ought to make sure that CBS does not "mediate" any debate; let Fox News do it, or if you must use one that's just a bit less biased than CBS, use Al Jazeera 8^D
CBS is history in my home unless they come clean with the public. It burns me that I won't be watching the season premieres this week of Everybody Love Raymond, King of Queens, etc. I refuse to patronize a station that was involved in trying to influence a Presidential election by using forged documents. It's criminal.
It would be a reasonable assumption that whatever was on the tapes, it didn't match the transcripts.
Statement from RNC Communications Director Jim Dyke
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Christine Iverson
Washington, DC-RNC Communications Director Jim Dyke made the following statement today
"Bill Burkett, Democrat activist and Kerry campaign supporter, passes information to the DNC; Kerry campaign surrogate Max Cleland discusses "valuable" information with Bill Burkett; Bill Burkett talks to "senior" Kerry campaign officials; an apparently unsuspecting news organization uses faked forged memos and an interview with Ben Barnes at the same time the Democratic National Committee launched Operation Fortunate Son; and Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill was among the first to call Ben Barnes and congratulate him after his interview. The trail of connections is becoming increasingly clear."
It is like falling in love...You will not look at the faults ,but idolize the assets of the person...That's what they did.... fell in love with advancing the story and could not see the faults of the new additions to the same old story..
I noticed a line from one of the soldiers in Iraq giving a pep talk to others on a clip on Ollie North's war stories show Sunday said something in reference to purple heart medals roughly along the lines of "None of our wounded guys took an an easy out..."
I thought Mapes lived in Texas unless this was a few years ago.CBS producer Mary Mapes, who lives in Texas
Sept. 10, 2004
KVI's John Carlson said Mary Mapes use to be a News producer at KIRO TV in Seattle until moving on to CBS 60 Minutes about 10-12 years ago. He worked with her and said she was the most liberal person at KIRO and had a very leftist view when producing the news program. John said when he heard the story break at CBS, that he bet Mary Mapes is behind it. It has been announced that Mary was the one to go out and obtain the bogus documents.
Mapes father called his program and agreed with Carlson.
(Maybe next they'll find a Donald Segretti correspondence course on political activism in Burkett's bookshelf? ;-)
Oh, might not be a good idea. If he stays on he serves as a reminder that some of the press has been lying and carrying Kerry's water all along.
Thanks, guess I stumbled on it early. That's what I love about FR; everything's here as it breaks!
Ms. Mapes has other problems as well:
Rathergate producer Mapes needs to get a lawyer
September 17th, 2004
American Thinker exclusive
Mary Mapes, producer of the Rathergate fiasco, soon may have federal law enforcement officials knocking on her door, if a press story today holds water. In what could be another blow to the already scandal ridden Dan Rather and CBS News, Joe Flint of the Wall Street Journal (as made available to nonsubscribers in todays San Francisco Chronicle), has a stunning lede about Dan Rathers producer:
After she uncovered photos of abuse at Iraq's Abu Gharib [sic] prison, "60 Minutes" producer Mary Mapes told a newspaper interviewer that she'd "never had a story that reverberated like this."
Mary Mapes didnt uncover anything. My article in The American Thinker on May 14, 2004 makes it clear that the incriminating photos of prisoner abuse and the reports of the Armys multiple investigations were extremely sensitive in two ways: one, they were classified as Secret, and two, the documents were evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation of US Soldiers. As I noted in the article,
Whoever disclosed this classified document and the photos knows that he or she is subject to prosecution under provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). It would require a very foolish, or a very powerful and well-connected party, to believe that they could get away with this sort of disclosure. To date, the press is singularly uninterested in the question of who did the leaking.
And not only was the major press uninterested in who disclosed these materials, which could lead to criminal charges, but were also not interested in who received them, which, for a civilian, could lead to a trip to a federal magistrates courtroom. Thanks to Joe Flint, we mny have our answer!
This is no small technicality under the law. From the soldiers and their commanders perspective, maintaining the proper chain of custody of the evidence is paramount. The Taguba investigation stresses this point,
Due to the extremely sensitive nature of these photographs and videos, the ongoing CID investigation, and the potential for the criminal prosecution of several suspects, the photographic evidence is not included in the body of my investigation. The pictures and videos are available from the Criminal Investigative Command and the CTJF-7 prosecution team.
While it can be argued that the government has no role in the Rathergate National Guard memo fiasco, its a different matter entirely when an unauthorized person accepts classified documents and material relating to a federal criminal prosecution.
Mary Mapes and CBS may now find themselves the targets of an FBI investigation with serious national security and criminal implications.
Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent
Actually a documented chain of custody is very useful.
. . . "a producer had told her that the source of the documents had said they were obtained anonymously and through the mail."The true answer:
Oh, but Dan, you said they were from an unimpeachable source. Inquiring minds want to know how you came to that conclusion...
The scene: Dan Rather's posh apartment somewhere near 34th Street in New York
Late one night, Dan Rather was pondering how he could present these "documents" that came to him through the mail. They were a gift from an anonymous source. These documents PROVED that which he so ardently believed to be true (despite the total lack of evidence to back his faith): that George Bush, President of the United States, was a lying sack of, well, excrement.
As Dan pondered, he was idly watching his TV, not paying too much attention to the old movie that was playing. Suddenly, his ears perked up as Fred Gailey (played by John Payne) convinced New York Supreme Court Judge Henry X. Harper (Gene Lockhart) that the U.S. Post Office, an officially recognized arm of the United States Government, was an unimpeachable source and that Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), was the one, true Santa Claus!
Dan, leaping to his feet, cried out "Eureka!" I have received these memos from an "unimpeachable" source: The United States Post Office!" "Yes," he thought as he looked up at the movie rolling its final credits, "It really IS a miracle on 34th Street!"
Dan went to bed that night gleeful with visions of President Kerry (played by Fred Gwynne) and Susan Walker (played by little Natalie Wood) finding a new house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
of the beginning!
We still need...
Good point. I'm laughing if they think their story is airtight and that Kerry's campaign is safe. A million bright people are going over every word with a fine-tooth comb and are collaborating with one another. They can't hide anything, lol!