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News: September 14, 2004

WorldMagBlog Interviews Last CBS Witness (Strong)

The CBS witness Robert Strong has been tracked down and interviewed by WorldMagBlog [note PowerlineBlog previously talked to him - see below]. It looks like his testimony was reported optimistically in favor of Bush's critics. The bottom line is that he says he can't authenticate the documents. "His testimony is on the level of someone saying, "these memos seem real to me because I can imagine writing memos like that and sticking them in my drawer."

The original CBS 60 Minutes report about President Bush's military service claimed that Robert Strong, "now a college professor, believes these documents are genuine." Strong, described by CBS as a "friend and colleague" of Lt Col Killian, said, "I was very fond of him, liked him personally." That's important, because Mr. Strong is now just about the last witness standing. [more]

Here are a few segments from the interview:

WHEN DID CBS FIRST CONTACT YOU
Actually, CBS first contacted me four years ago. This was a… What you saw on 60 minutes [sic] was a follow up - a second interview. I did an initial interview with 60 minutes before the 2000 campaign which was never used - because they couldn’t get Barnes to talk. There were just too many holes and they never aired it.

WHEN THEY CAME BACK TO YOU FOR THIS TIME – I’M TRYING TO BUILD A TIMEFRAME – I GUESS WHEN DID THEY CONTACT YOU THIS TIME AROUND?
They contacted me the Friday before the program aired on Wednesday.

AND WHAT DID THEY TELL YOU ABOUT THE MEMOS THAT THEY HAD. THE NEW INFORMATION THAT THEY HAD?
They just said they had uncovered these documents that appeared to come from some sort of desk file or personal file of Col. Killian’s and would I look at them, and would I consider doing another interview with Dan Rather? And I said, yes and yes.

DID THEY FAX THEM TO YOU, OR WAS MAPES IN TEXAS?
I just don’t know how much detail I ought to be telling you about all of this. This seems to be CBS’s business. They contacted me asked me if I’d do an interview. We set up the interview. When I got to the interview they handed me a folder with the documents in them. I spent maybe 20-30 minutes before Rather was ready do the interview. I looked the documents over and we did the interview.

OK. NOW, TELL ME ABOUT KILLIAN IN HIS PROFESSIONAL LIFE AS FAR AS YOU KNOW. DID YOU EVER OBSERVE HIM TYPING?
No. I didn’t work in the same unit with him then. He was in Houston. I was in Austin. I have no knowledge personally or otherwise of his typing skills; whether he typed the memos; whether someone else typed the memos. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

AND YOU TOLD CBS THAT YOU DIDN’T SEE ANYTHING INCONSISTENT WITH HOW BUSINESS WAS DONE…

[snip]

Now I don’t know if Jerry Killian ever touched a typewriter in his life. I have no way of knowing. I don’t know whether he typed them or he had someone else type them, or what. He was a Lt. Colonel. He was a full-time guard technician. He was a full-time guard employee. He had a support staff that could have typed them. I don’t know. I don’t care.

CBS HAS USED YOUR NAME TO GIVE SUPPORT FOR THESE DOCUMENTS. I’M JUST WONDERING… YOU SAID YOU DIDN’T SEE ANYTHING INCONSISTENT WITH HOW BUSINESS WAS DONE AT THE TIME. DID YOU GIVE THEM ANY MORE THAN THAT? DID YOU GIVE THEM ANY REASON TO THINK THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE AUTHENTICATED THEM?

I would not say that I authenticated the documents. What they asked me about the documents… I basically said if these documents are what they purport to be, then I don’t see anything inconsistent with the way we did business or the man I knew Jerry Killian to be. You know, I’m looking at third or fourth generation copies of memos that look perfectly OK to me. But it’s been 30-odd years, man.

[etc]

Powerline Blog previously caught up with Strong and reported:

In a follow-up conversation, Robert Strong told our correspondent that he worked with Jerry Killian in the Air National Guard from 1968 to the early 1970’s. He said that he believed that the CBS documents were genuine, but admitted that he “cannot vouch for the documents’ authenticity.” Further, Strong said that he doesn’t think it matters whether the documents are genuine are not.

[snip]

Bottom line: Robert Strong is an inoffensive English professor who dislikes, but has never met, President Bush; he has no idea whether the CBS documents are authentic; he never discussed Lt. Bush with Jerry Killian; and he has “no personal knowledge” about President Bush’s National Guard service. The only information Strong actually brings to the table is his confirmation that the CBS documents “turned up” as retribution for the Swift Boat Vets’ attacks on John Kerry.

In an article that repeats CBS' steadfast assertion that they verified the authenticity of the memos, CBS News (9/14) quotes Strong,

Robert Strong, who appeared in the original segment, said after it aired that still did not see anything in the memos that made him think they were forgeries. Robert Strong noted he's not a forensic expert and isn't vouching for the documents.

"I didn't see anything that was inconsistent with how we did business," Strong said in an interview. "It looked like the sort of thing that Jerry Killian would have done or said. He was a very professional guy.


Its quite interesting that verifying authenticity has been equated to "I didn't see anything that was inconsistent."

Posted by tim at September 14, 2004 4:30 PM




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