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Those Bush AWOL docs are not forgeries, says CBS (WP):

“CBS News released a statement yesterday standing by its reporting, saying that each of the documents ‘was thoroughly vetted by independent experts and we are convinced of their authenticity.’ The statement added that CBS reporters had verified the documents by talking to unidentified people who saw them ‘at the time they were written.’ ”

A senior CBS official, who asked not to be named because CBS managers did not want to go beyond their official statement, named one of the network’s sources as retired Maj. Gen. Bobby W. Hodges, the immediate superior of the documents’ alleged author, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian. He said a CBS reporter read the documents to Hodges over the phone and Hodges replied that “these are the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time.”

“These documents represent what Killian not only was putting in memoranda, but was telling other people,” the CBS News official said. “Journalistically, we’ve gone several extra miles.”

The official said the network regarded Hodges’s comments as “the trump card” on the question of authenticity, as he is a Republican who acknowledged that he did not want to hurt Bush. Hodges, who declined to grant an on-camera interview to CBS, did not respond to messages left on his home answering machine in Texas.

…CBS officials insisted that the network had done due diligence in checking out the authenticity of the documents with independent experts over six weeks. The senior CBS official said the network had talked to four typewriting and handwriting experts “who put our concerns to rest” and confirmed the authenticity of Killian’s signature.

The doubts about the documents left the White House and the Bush campaign in a state of suspended animation, with Bush aides encouraging doubts about the documents but conceding that the possibility that they were forged seemed too good to be true. White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said that officials there had not attempted to authenticate the documents but simply released copies “provided to us by CBS in the interests of openness.”

The Bush administration’s strategy yesterday was to let news organizations raise doubts and conduct forensic examinations, without taking an official position on whether the documents were genuine.

The wingnuts have Dan Rather running scared, of course. CBS is running an internal investigation (I assume document authentication). The question I have is, Bush can confirm by releasing a comment on whether he was suspended. After all, now the Bush camp isn’t sure what other documents (or witnesses) might be out there if they deny it.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding