Wednesday, September 29, 2004


More than just an embarrassment.....

Fox News is carrying a story on their website about the CBS memogate documents. More than just an embarrassment, more than just a rush to press, there may be real legal reprocussions here.

In Texas, the state in which Burkett concedes the false National Guard memos originated, it is a felony to make or present two or more documents with knowledge of their falsity and with intent that they be taken as a genuine governmental record. Under the U.S. Code, use of an interstate telephone wire, such as the one used to transmit an image of the forged documents from Texas to CBS headquarters, triggers federal jurisdiction.

Burkett's recent statements are just as amusing as those given by drivers of stolen vehicles, and anyone hearing them could be forgiven for thinking that there really is no source for the memos other than Burkett. (His National Guard background certainly gives him the knowledge to write a memo that might not look convincing, but at least contains the jargon to sound convincing.)

We will probably never know just what Burkett confessed to Rather that weekend, but he said enough for CBS to almost immediately state that it had been "misled" as to the as original source of the documents. Though we don't know the identity of that source, the vast majority of experts agree that it was someone who did his or her typing at a personal computer loaded with Microsoft Word.

Besides Burkett being in trouble, it's not clear that CBS will be off the hook yet, either.

The documents were not just forged; they were obviously forged to the generation over age 40, which has used both a typewriter and a computer to write; CBS did not have to be misled about the source of the documents to be tipped that the documents were not real. While Burkett might have been willfully blind to things that would indicate that the memos were fake, there is mounting evidence that even CBS' experts told producers of 60 Minutes II that they could not verify that the documents were real. The story was aired – or in the terms of the Texas forgery statute, "presented" — in spite of this.

Be interesting to see how this works out.

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