WASHINGTON – Documents allegedly written by a deceased officer that raised questions about President Bush’s service with the Texas Air National Guard bore markings showing they had been faxed to CBS News from a Kinko’s copy shop in Abilene, according to another former Guard officer who was shown the records by the network.
The markings provide one piece of evidence suggesting a source for the documents, whose authenticity has been hotly disputed since CBS aired them in a 60 Minutes broadcast Sept. 8. The network has declined to name the person who provided them, saying the source was confidential, or to explain how the documents came to light after more than three decades.
There is only one Kinko’s in Abilene, and it is 21 miles from the Baird, Texas, home of retired Texas National Guard officer Bill Burkett, who has been named by several news outlets as a possible source for the documents.
CBS anchor Dan Rather acknowledged for the first time Wednesday night that there are serious questions about the authenticity of the documents.
Rather spoke after interviewing the secretary to Bush’s former squadron commander, who told him the memos attributed to her late boss are fake.
The former secretary, Marian Carr Knox of Houston, is the latest person to raise questions about the 60 Minutes story. Knox, 86, worked for 23 years at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston and served as a typist for Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, then Bush’s squadron commander, and several other officers.
“If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I’d like to break that story,” Rather said Wednesday night. “Any time I’m wrong, I want to be right out front and say, ‘Folks, this is what went wrong and how it went wrong.’ “
Robert Strong, who was one of three people interviewed by 60 minutes, said he was shown copies of the documents by Rather and producer Mary Mapes on Sept. 5, three days before the broadcast. He said at least one of the documents bore a faxed header indicating it had been sent from a Kinko’s in Abilene.
Strong’s comments came as CBS News President Andrew Heyward acknowledged that there were “unresolved issues” that the network wanted “to get to the bottom of.” Since the broadcast, critics have pointed to a host of unexplained problems about the memos, which bore dates from 1972 and 1973, including signs that they had been written on a computer rather than a Vietnam-era typewriter.
“I feel that we did a tremendous amount of reporting before the story went on the air or we wouldn’t have put it on the air,” Heyward said Wednesday night, while acknowledging “a ferocious debate about these documents.”
Asked what role Burkett may have played in CBS’s reporting of the report, Heyward said: “I’m not going to get into any discussion of who the sources are.”