Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Lady Of The Fake

The New York Times reports on the former secretary who has induced the Gray Lady to accept the entire concept of "Fake but Accurate":

Marian Carr Knox, now 86, said in an interview at her home here. "But I doubt,'' she said, pausing, "it's not anything that I wrote because there are terms in there that are not used by Guards, the format wasn't the way we did it. It looks like someone may have read the originals and put that together."

It's bad enough that the forger used MicroSoft Word to create the fakes, instead of just picking up an old typewriter. But can one really imagine a forger so witless as to read the originals and then put together a fake that does not use either the same format or terminology as the originals?

UPDATE: Statement by the President of CBS News, Andrew Heyward (from DRUDGE):

"We established to our satisfaction that the memos were accurate or we would not have put them on television. There was a great deal of coroborating [sic] evidence from people in a position to know. Having said that, given all the questions about them, we believe we should redouble our efforts to answer those questions, so that's what we are doing."
These were apparently that peculiar type of people in a position to know who were not capable of actually knowing that there are terms in there that are not used by Guards, the format wasn't the way we did it.

FURTHER UPDATE: To accept this "grand hypothesis" (noted by Kausfiles), one must accept the proposition that the source for these documents was a current or retired Texas Air National Guard officer, such as Bill Burkett, who has been cited in reports in Newsweek and The New York Times as a source for CBS' report. But that would mean that an officer in the TANG created documents that prompted Ms. Knox to note that there are terms in there that are not used by Guards, the format wasn't the way we did it. [Correction: Mr. Burkett was a member of the Army National Guard, not the Air National Guard. See the Further Update below.]

How likely is that? It doesn't seem that Ms. Knox's recollections can very easily be made practically consistent with the "grand hypothesis" or, for that matter, any hypothesis that posits that the documents were created or supplied by someone who knew Guard terminology and proper memo formatting.

Since Mr. Burkett seems likely to have been "The Source," perhaps it's time to start considering Ms. Knox as a somewhat ditzy 86-year-old lady and Democratic partisan who is pretending (knowingly or not) to remember more detail than most people do after 35 years. One can easily obtain better experts in "Guard terminology" than Ms. Knox. And any major media outlet could probably find other examples of memos created by or at the bidding of Mr. Killian. What does she add other than her misleading title as "former secretary" for Mr. Killian?

On the other hand, if other witnesses and investigation establish that the memos contain bad terminology and formatting, then perhaps Mr. Burkett isn't the true supplier or creator of the forgeries - even if they passed through his hands.

Has anybody actually asked Mr. Killian's family or other Guardsmen for some actual specimens of Mr. Killian's surviving memoranda that don't deal with Mr. Bush but that order other people to show up for physicals out of sequence or the like - just to compare formats and terminology and procedure, perhaps? Probably not. There's been no mention of that in the media coverage. Few who favor Mr. Bush in the election care about this old irrelevant Guard silliness one way or the other, and the mainstream media (especially CBS) reporters mostly seem to be too witless and partisan to have asked the right questions. Judging from the way CBS trashed its experts who warned that the documents looked phony, those reporters are and were much too afraid of the answers.

Mr. Rather says the CBS investigation went on for "years." Why is he bragging about that? - it's a very extended exercise in "don't ask, don't tell."

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: An astute reader e-mails with this interesting observation:

What Ms. Knox said was that the terminology was ARMY terminology. Bill Burkett, the discredited Bush gadfly was in the ARMY NATIONAL GUARD. The documents came from the Abiline Kinkos where Burkett has an account. It really isn't a flight of fancy to see him as the actual source of the memos.

Mr. Burkett is a retired officer in the Army and the Army National Guard. But he has had experience which appears to have likely exposed him to lots of Air National Guard terminology. He was for a while the deputy commandant of the New Mexico Military Academy (or Institute) - which trains its cadets for entry to all of the armed forces, including the army and the air force. He worked under and clashed with Gen. Daniel James, an Air Force General then the head of the Texas National Guard since named head of the Air National Guard by President Bush (and son of the nation's first Black four-star general). Prior to his clash with General James, Mr. Burkett generally seems to have spent a fair amount of time in close contact with Air National Guard staff - close enough to have spent time listening at the General door. [As an aside, I find Mr. Burkett's own description of how he came to "overhear" General James to be inconsistent with any claim that Mr. Burkett is a generally trust worthy, straight forward or even honest man. What kind of person listens at partly opened doors - especially more than once, as Mr. Burkett admits to doing? "Trust worthy" is not a term I would generally apply.]

I agree with my e-mailer that it is not a flight of fancy to see Mr. Burkett as cobbling up memoranda with Army terminology. But given Mr. Burkett's apparent career experience, it still seems unlikely. On the other hand, he could have been a conduit for documents prepared by someone else.

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