CQuestions surface on authenticity of memos concerning George W. Bush's Texas Air National Guard service

Friday, September 10th 2004, 6:41 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Questions are being raised about the authenticity of newly unearthed memos which asserted that George W. Bush ignored a direct order from a superior officer in the Texas Air National Guard and lost his status as a pilot because he failed to meet military performance standards and undergo a required physical exam.

CBS, which reported on the memos on its ``60 Minutes'' program, said its experts who examined the documents concluded that they were authentic. They ostensibly were written by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, one of Bush's commanders in 1972 and 1973.

But Killian's son, one of Killian's fellow officers and an independent document examiner questioned the memos. Gary Killian, who served in the Guard with his father and retired as a captain in 1991, said he doubted his father would have written an unsigned memo which said there was pressure to ``sugar coat'' Bush's performance review.

``It just wouldn't happen,'' he said. ``No officer in his right mind would write a memo like that.''

The personnel chief in Killian's unit at the time also said he believes the documents are fake.

``They looked to me like forgeries,'' said Rufus Martin. ``I don't think Killian would do that, and I knew him for 17 years.'' Killian died in 1984.

Independent document examiner Sandra Ramsey Lines said the memos looked like they had been produced on a computer using Microsoft Word software. Lines, a document expert and fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, pointed to a superscript _ a smaller, raised ``th'' in ``111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron'' _ as evidence indicating forgery.

Microsoft Word automatically inserts superscripts in the same style as the two on the memos obtained by CBS, she said.

``I'm virtually certain these were computer generated,'' Lines said after reviewing copies of the documents at her office in Paradise Valley, Ariz. She produced a nearly identical document using her computer's Microsoft Word software.

The Defense Department released Bush's pilot logs this week under pressure from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The Associated Press.

Bush's Vietnam-era Air National Guard service became a focus of Democratic criticism this week amid a flurry of new reports about his activities. Democrats say Bush shirked his National Guard duties, a claim Bush denies.

Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard in 1968, serving more than a year on active Air Force duty while being trained to fly F-102A jets. He was honorably discharged from the Guard in October 1973 and left the Air Force Reserves in May 1974.

The first four months of 1972 are at the beginning of a controversial period in Bush's Guard service. After taking his last flight in April 1972, Bush went for six months without showing up for any training drills. In September 1972 he received permission to transfer to an Alabama Guard unit so he could work on a political campaign there.

That May, Bush also skipped a required yearly medical examination. In response, his commanders grounded Bush on Aug. 1, 1972.