Sept. 14, 2004 -- Two of the document experts hired by CBS News say the network ignored concerns they raised prior to the broadcast of a report citing documents that questioned George W. Bush's service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War.
The authenticity of the documents in the report by CBS News' 60 Minutes II has been widely questioned. The documents were allegedly written by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who died in 1984.
Emily Will, a veteran document examiner from North Carolina, told ABC News she saw problems right away with the one document CBS hired her to check the weekend before the broadcast.
"I found five significant differences in the questioned handwriting, and I found problems with the printing itself as to whether it could have been produced by a typewriter," she said.
Will says she sent the CBS producer an e-mail message about her concerns and strongly urged the network the night before the broadcast not to use the documents.
"I told them that all the questions I was asking them on Tuesday night, they were going to be asked by hundreds of other document examiners on Thursday if they ran that story," Will said.
But the documents became a key part of the 60 Minutes II broadcast questioning President Bush's National Guard service in 1972. CBS made no mention that any expert disputed the authenticity.
"I did not feel that they wanted to investigate it very deeply," Will told ABC News.
‘I Did Not Authenticate Anything’
A second document examiner hired by CBS News, Linda James of Plano, Texas, also told ABC News she had concerns about the documents and could not authenticate them. She said she expressed her concerns to CBS before the 60 Minutes II broadcast.
"I did not authenticate anything and I don't want it to be misunderstood that I did," James said. "And that's why I have come forth to talk about it because I don't want anybody to think I did authenticate these documents."
A third examiner hired by CBS for its story, Marcel Matley, appeared on CBS Evening News last Friday and was described as saying the document was real.
According to The Washington Post, Matley said he examined only the signature attributed to Killian and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves.
At the heart of the dispute is whether any typewriter existed in 1972 that could have produced the documents, with their distinct type style, even spacing, and the tiny raised "th" known as superscript.
Two experts told ABC News today there was no such machine, not even the IBM Selectric Composer, the most advanced typewriter available in 1972.
"This machine is not the culprit for these documents," said software engineer Gerry Kaplan.
Other new questions were raised today by National Guard officials who told ABC News that some of the language and abbreviations in the documents were not in use at the time.
CBS Stands by Its Report
CBS News says it still believes the documents are authentic.
"CBS News did not rely on either Emily Will or Linda James for a final assessment of the documents regarding George Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard. Ms. Will and Ms. James were among a group of experts we consulted to assess one of the four documents used in the report and they did not render definitive judgment on that document. Ultimately, they played a peripheral role and deferred to another expert who examined all four of the documents used," the network said in a statement.
"Most importantly, the content of the documents was backed up by our reporting and our sources who knew the thoughts and behavior of Lt. Col. Jerry Killian at the time," the statement said.
Killian's former secretary, Marian Carr Knox, told ABC News she believes the documents are fake, but that they do reflect some of what her former boss thought of then-Lt. George W. Bush.
"He did have complaints about Bush. Bush missed his physical and went off to Alabama with none of the paperwork, I remember Killian talking about that," Knox said. "But it wasn't in memo file."