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Unanswered questions

I suppose now that CBS has admitted they screwed up, Rathergate will die down as a story and the media feeding frenzy will turn elsewhere. But before it does, I thought this excellent USA Today post (?) mortem deserved to be highlighted, with a few points emphasized.

CBS's source, Bill Burkett, insists he didn't do anything wrong:

"I didn't forge anything," Burkett said. "I didn't fake any documents. The only thing I've done here is to transfer documents from people I thought were real to people I thought were real. And that has been the limitation of my role. I may have been a patsy."
"To people I thought were real?" What does he think they are now? CBS has, what, androids working there? And if he got them from people he thought were real, who are they?
In earlier conversations with USA TODAY, Burkett had identified the source of the documents as George Conn, a former Texas National Guard colleague who works for the U.S. Army in Europe. Burkett now says he made up the story about Conn's involvement to divert attention from himself and the woman he now says provided him with the documents. He told USA TODAY that he also lied to CBS.
Does that mean he told the same lie to CBS -- that Conn had provided the documents? He says, later in this article, that he did: "He said he told the same story to CBS..." If so, why didn't CBS call Conn directly? If they did, did Conn lie? If so, shouldn't CBS have revealed that by now, instead of shrugging at the whole thing? On the other hand, if Conn wouldn't corroborate Burkett's story, why did CBS believe Burkett?

And leaving Conn aside, whose name is Burkett giving now?

Burkett now maintains that the source of the papers was Lucy Ramirez, who he says phoned him from Houston in March to offer the documents. USA TODAY has been unable to locate Ramirez.


By Monday, USA TODAY had not been able to locate Ramirez or verify other details of Burkett's account. Three people who worked with Killian in the early 1970s said they don't recognize her name. Burkett promised to provide telephone records that would verify his calls to Ramirez, but he had not done so by Monday night.

Google doesn't help here; a search for Lucy Ramirez is far too broad, and when you qualify it with "Lucy Ramirez" and Texas you don't get anything useful.

But Burkett's story gets stranger than merely describing a mysterious woman who made him a "patsy."

Burkett said Ramirez told him she had seen him the previous month in an appearance on the MSNBC program Hardball, discussing the controversy over whether Bush fulfilled all his obligations for service in the Texas Air Guard during the early 1970s. "There is something I have that I want to make sure gets out," he quoted her as saying.

He said Ramirez claimed to possess Killian's "correspondence file," which would prove Burkett's allegations that Bush had problems as a Guard fighter pilot.
Burkett said he arranged to get the documents during a trip to Houston for a livestock show in March. But instead of being met at the show by Ramirez, he was approached by a man who asked for Burkett, handed him an envelope and quickly left, Burkett recounted.

"I didn't even ask any questions," Burkett said. "Should I have? Yes. Maybe I was duped. I never really even considered that."

By Monday, USA TODAY had not been able to locate Ramirez or verify other details of Burkett's account. Three people who worked with Killian in the early 1970s said they don't recognize her name. Burkett promised to provide telephone records that would verify his calls to Ramirez, but he had not done so by Monday night.

An acquaintance of Burkett, who he said could corroborate his story, said he was at the livestock show on March 3. The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said Burkett asked if he could put papers inside a box she had at the livestock show. Often, she said, friends ask to store papers in her box that verify their purchases at the livestock auction. She said she did not know the nature of the papers Burkett gave her, and he did not say anything about them.

Then cloak-and-dagger kicks in full blast...
After he received the documents in Houston, Burkett said, he drove home, stopping on the way at a Kinko's shop in Waco to copy the six memos. In the parking lot outside, he said, he burned the ones he had been given and the envelope they were in. Ramirez was worried about leaving forensic evidence on them that might lead back to her, Burkett said, acknowledging that the story sounded fantastic. "This is going to sound like some damn sci-fi movie," he said.

After keeping the copies for a couple of days, he said he drove to a location he would not specify, about 100 miles from his ranch, to put them "in cold storage." Burkett said he took the action because he believed the papers were politically explosive and made him nervous. "I treated them like absolute TNT," he said. "They looked to me like they were devastating."

Uh huh. Right.

In other words, if you believe Burkett's story, he received a mysterious phone call from a woman he had never met and didn't know, who claimed that she had the personal papers of a senior officer in the National Guard which would prove problems in Bush's past. Rather than going to the press with these papers, she decided to call some guest who she happened to see on Hardball. They rushed to arrange a clandestine meeting at a livestock show, but the woman didn't show up; instead, a mysterious man handed him an envelope and left. Then, rather than taking care to preserve this damning evidence, Burkett made a couple of photocopies at Kinkos, burned all evidence of the originals (or were they copies also?) and of his source, hid them in an undisclosed location, and even though they were "devastating," ignored them. Then, five months later -- rather than right when the AWOL story was in the news -- Burkett decided the time was right to release these documents. So he shopped them around to media outlets that would guarantee him anonymity, lied about where he got them, and walked away.

Yeah. Oh, how would you like to buy a bridge? Got one for you, cheap. Oh, sorry; I don't. Dan Rather already bought it.

By the way, you've got to love journalistic circumlocution:

Burkett's own doubts about the authenticity of the memos and his inability to supply evidence to show that Ramirez exists also raise questions about his credibility. Burkett has strong anti-Bush views. He has posted comments on Internet Web sites critical of Bush and has chastised Sen. John Kerry's organization for what he called its inept campaign.
His "inability to supply evidence to show that she exists" raises questions about his credibility? How about the fact that he admittedly lied about the source of the documents? Doesn't that "raise questions" about his credibility? Doesn't that by definition destroy his credibility?


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Comments (1)


Does anyone really believe that after all these years these memos would magically surface? People who have been dead for 20 years don’t still have personal files stored where they had worked. I can guarantee you that this is especially true at a government facility where space is at a premium. The first thing one does is clear out old files to make room for the current files. If these memos were legitimate they would have been found shortly after Killian had died, not 20 years later.

It is obvious to me that this fraud was deliberately perpetrated by CBS. They did it because they thought they could get away with it. That is why they refused to allow anyone to examine the “original” documents. By keeping the documents hidden, they felt that nobody would be able to prove that they were fakes.


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