Who knew?

An examination of the timeline of publicly—reported events leading up to the Rathergate scandal raises some interesting questions about possible as—yet unrevealed collusion among Bill Burkett, members of the national press corps, and the Kerry campaign. Someone other than CBS and Burkett appears to have known about the phony documents, and spread the word quietly, in preparation for a massive coordinated campaign to discredit President Bush.

On April 27, Kerry campaign literature suddenly claimed that there were "verbal orders" from Killian to suspend Bush for failing to take his medical exam. Shortly afterward (in "May" according to Burkett's ex—lawyer, Van Os) Burkett began getting calls from "national newspapers and TV." How did these reporters suddenly and mysteriously find their way to Baird, Texas within days of the Kerry campaign piece?

Unless you believe that a number of journalists saw a lodestar leading them, like Magi, to the doorstep of Bill Burkett in search of memos (which seem to have been created shortly before), the more reasonable conclusion is that someone pointed them in that direction.

CBS indicates Mary Mapes, the segment producer, had been in communication with Burkett for 18 months prior to the Sixty Minutes show, which puts her in this pack of reporters. But who else was in on the scam? We are told that Mapes and the CBS team were obsessed with their 'scoop,' so they certainly didn't tip—off the competition.

Members of the national press corps know something critical about the story — who was peddling the documents. Yet none have yet revealed themselves. In the midst of biggest journalistic scandal in decades, they are holding their tongues. Who directed them to Burkett? And when?

The public wants to know. And, given the fact that this scandal bears directly on the forthcoming presidential election, we have a right to know. The press corps, the schools of journalism, and all those nonprofit organizations which never tire of giving awards to journalists for 'outstanding public service,' are almost completely silent on the obligation of the 'profession' of journalism to purge itself of what looks like corrupt collusion to spread forgeries.
 
From the press reports the timeline is fairly clear, though, unlike CBS, I am not vouching for anybody's credibility.
 
We don't know when all of these memos were created. But based on technical evidence, one appears to have been created on February 6, 2004
 
On February 12, less than a week later, USA Today reported that there had been efforts to cleanse Bush's record. The source for this story was Burkett. The next day the Boston Globe contacted George O. Conn, former Chief Warrant Officer in TANG ,who flatly denied Burkett's claim, saying he never saw anyone combing through the Bush records or discarding any of them.
 
Shortly afterward according to Van Os (Burkett's ex—lawyer)  Burkett received a call from a man (Burkett says a woman, Lucy Ramirez) telling him he had documents confirming Burkett's story that Bush was ordered to take his medical exam and refused to do so. Burkett says he was busy but agreed to pick them up at Houston on March 3, and says did so.
 
So how did these reporters, so close in time to the Kerry communication on this same point, suddenly get the idea, in late April/early May, that Burkett had documents on Bush's TANG service? And why would they seek documents which probably could not have existed, if they gave credence to Conn, who said the story was false?

Was someone spreading the word?  How would the person who gave the cue to the press know there was something there, unless he were involved in creating the documents and passing them to Burkett? And, if that's so, reporters other than Mapes who contacted Burkett are in the best position to crack this mystery.
 
There must have been others also in the know. How else to explain that on August 11 the Chairman of the Tennessee State Vets for Kerry hinted on a radio interview that there was new evidence regarding Bush's failure to take his medical exam and loss of flight status? This is particularly curious because on August 13 Burkett posted an internet  article indicating that he had not yet seen documentary evidence of the claim.

But it is approximately this time (mid—August is the best date CBS has given) when Burkett gave CBS the first 2 of the 6 memos.  On August 21, Burkett posted on the web that he had spoken to Max Cleland, who said he did want to mount a "counterattack" to the Swift Boats campaign.

Four days later, Burkett posted on the web that "we have reassembled" the Bush files. No explanation is given for whom the 'we' refers to. Nor is the meaning of 'reassamebled' clear. And a time frame is notably absent. But according to Burkett and Van Os (if you choose the believe them), the phony memos had been in his hands since March 3. The only new development is that by August 21 he had turned 2 of them over to CBS.
 
By September, it is clear that someone either within CBS or Kerry's camp (or both) was leaking the details of the story. On September 1, liberal blogger Josh Marshall reported that Sixty Minutes was working on a story about Bush's service, and on September 2 , Salon reported that there were "unanswered questions" respecting the President's service in TANG.

Two days later, Lockhart called Burkett. Lockhart says he's 99.9% sure he didn't discuss the memos. This is not terribly believable, because by this time Texans for Truth was about to launch its ad campaign, Operation Fortunate Son, in which these documents would be certain to play a big supporting role. The scent of collusion is obvious to me. But then I was the first kid in my class to figure out there was no Santa Claus.

The next day, September 5, Burkett gave the remaining 4 memos to CBS. And the very next day, Terry McAuliffe issued a release raising questions about Bush's service. The DNC followed this up with yet another presser on the same topic on September 7.
 
On September 8 the CBS story runs.
 
The DNC must have worked very hard that evening because it gave three more pressers on the topic on September 9.

The next day the Boston Globe got a TANG document dump; Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times wrote a TANG piece; Texans for Truth began running its Operation Fortunate Son ads; and McAuliffe held a press conference alleging the President was AWOL.

+++++++++++++++++
 
To maximize a campaign story, one must plant seeds in the public mind about it beforehand and get the troops in line to capitalize on it after it breaks. It is hard for me to look at this timeline and (assuming the parties have told the truth) not see judicious leaks ahead of time, and a well—planned campaign to maximize its impact once the story broke.

And it is even harder to imagine all this without believing that whoever gave the documents to Burkett also told the press that Burkett had them. That person  may also have been the one contacting the Tennesee State Vets for Kerry, Texans for Truth and the DNC.
 
Just who do you suppose would do all of that?

UPDATE: Reader William Henslee writes the following interesting comments:

1. The Nicolas Kristoff column in the NYT was datelined and online on Sept 8th, not Sept 9th.  That was the same date of the CBS program and had to be done prior to the CBS broadcast. Its also interesting to note that the Times online edition of this column already had a place for readers to enroll for continuing 'breaking news' bulletins on the Air National Guard story. Someone would have had to write the code for that on Sept 8th after the Times staff anticipated that there were going to be a lot of additional breaking news on the story. 

2. The NYT article on the TANG documents also carried a Sept.8th dateline, although in was published on Sept. 9th. The story also credited a NYT staffer in Dallas, Texas with contributions to the story, so the Times would have to have had prior knowledge of the date to break the information in order to get an outlying staffer to work on it.

3. The Boston Globe also ran a story on the TANG matter on Sept 8th. Although the paper claimed its 'Spotlight Team' had done the investigative work. ( Boston Globe Archives, 2004—09—10 ) THE GLOBE SPOTLIGHT TEAM HAS SCORED ANOTHER BULL'S—EYE WITH ITS REPORT ON GEORGE W. BUSH'S VIOLATION OF HIS CONTRACT WITH THE GOVERNMENT FOR SERVICE IN THE AIR NATIONAL GUARD, AND HIS STAFF'S SUBSEQUENT EGREGIOUS DENIAL AND MISREPRESENTATION OF THE FACTS (PAGE A1, SEPT. 8).

4. Both the NYT column by Nicolas Kristoff of Sept. 8th and the Boston Globe article on Sept. 8th use an analysis of Bush service records from the same retired Lt. Col Lechliter, vouching for him as an expert who has conclusively proved that Bush failed to fulfill his Guard duties. It seems unusual that two media giants separated by hundreds of miles would seek out the same 'expert' on the same day to validate their stories. Who is Lechliter? Is he an aparatchnik of the Kerry Campaign?

I believe this is sufficient evidence of collusion between these media outlets on the timing of the stories to infer that they were being fed information by someone in the Kerry campaign.

Our own Steve Gilbert, whose articles on this site contend that Burkett composed the docuemnts himself in August, naturally politely dissents:

The claim is made that one of the memos was created in February, which is based on a a LGF story which says that Fox's .pdfs show a Feb creation date.

Since the pdf is of a fax that is itself dated Sep 10, this is easily explained that the computer used to make the pdf had an inaccurate time stamp. (The computer's clock and date was off—which is not at all uncommon, especially in work computers.)

The author asks why the media would get in touch with Burkett months ago? Well, Burkett was a one man band in February, trotting out (once again) his story about having seen Bush's records destroyed. This all was in the context of Terry McAuliff and Michael Moore raising it again——and Farenheit 9/11 coming out...
 
Remember, Burkett claims to be (and surely is) one of the sources for Michael Moore's docu—fantasy.

Lastly, the Aug 11 foreshadowing by the Chairman of the Tennessee State Vets for Kerry did not mention documents. Indeed, the remarks are clearly about a different subject, the introduction of drug testing, which was a canard being raised by the ultra left around that time. It is discussed here.

UPDATE 2: A reader adds the following comments:

Texans for Truth is a 527 technically separate from the DNC.  Texans for Truth, according to the IRS was formed on 8/31/04, and created its commercial blasting Bush's National Guard service on 9/7/04 the day before the CBS Story. 

Terry McAuliffe held a press conference on 9/6/04 devoted to questioning Bush's National Guard Service, minutes after the CBS Story on 9/8/04 McAuliffe issued a statement about Bush's National Guard service quoting the CBS Story, and Operation Fortunate Son was launched as a DNC operation on 9/9/04 referencing the CBS Story as proof, with Sen. Tom Harkin running around holding press conferences and town hall meetings questioning Bush's National Guard service again referencing the CBS Story.

So we are to believe that it is coincidental that within a span of four days:

9/6/04   McAuliffe holds press conference questioning Bush's NG Service

9/7/04   Texans for Truth airs a commercial questioning Bush's NG Service

9/8/04   CBS, The Boston Globe, and the NY Times do stories questioning Bush's NG Service

9/9/04   DNC Launches Operation Fortunate Son questioning Bush's NG Service

Another angle I don't see anyone exploring is the role of Texans for Truth.  This is a 527, if they were coordinated into this attack that is a violation of McCain—Feingold.

An examination of the timeline of publicly—reported events leading up to the Rathergate scandal raises some interesting questions about possible as—yet unrevealed collusion among Bill Burkett, members of the national press corps, and the Kerry campaign. Someone other than CBS and Burkett appears to have known about the phony documents, and spread the word quietly, in preparation for a massive coordinated campaign to discredit President Bush.

On April 27, Kerry campaign literature suddenly claimed that there were "verbal orders" from Killian to suspend Bush for failing to take his medical exam. Shortly afterward (in "May" according to Burkett's ex—lawyer, Van Os) Burkett began getting calls from "national newspapers and TV." How did these reporters suddenly and mysteriously find their way to Baird, Texas within days of the Kerry campaign piece?

Unless you believe that a number of journalists saw a lodestar leading them, like Magi, to the doorstep of Bill Burkett in search of memos (which seem to have been created shortly before), the more reasonable conclusion is that someone pointed them in that direction.

CBS indicates Mary Mapes, the segment producer, had been in communication with Burkett for 18 months prior to the Sixty Minutes show, which puts her in this pack of reporters. But who else was in on the scam? We are told that Mapes and the CBS team were obsessed with their 'scoop,' so they certainly didn't tip—off the competition.

Members of the national press corps know something critical about the story — who was peddling the documents. Yet none have yet revealed themselves. In the midst of biggest journalistic scandal in decades, they are holding their tongues. Who directed them to Burkett? And when?

The public wants to know. And, given the fact that this scandal bears directly on the forthcoming presidential election, we have a right to know. The press corps, the schools of journalism, and all those nonprofit organizations which never tire of giving awards to journalists for 'outstanding public service,' are almost completely silent on the obligation of the 'profession' of journalism to purge itself of what looks like corrupt collusion to spread forgeries.
 
From the press reports the timeline is fairly clear, though, unlike CBS, I am not vouching for anybody's credibility.
 
We don't know when all of these memos were created. But based on technical evidence, one appears to have been created on February 6, 2004
 
On February 12, less than a week later, USA Today reported that there had been efforts to cleanse Bush's record. The source for this story was Burkett. The next day the Boston Globe contacted George O. Conn, former Chief Warrant Officer in TANG ,who flatly denied Burkett's claim, saying he never saw anyone combing through the Bush records or discarding any of them.
 
Shortly afterward according to Van Os (Burkett's ex—lawyer)  Burkett received a call from a man (Burkett says a woman, Lucy Ramirez) telling him he had documents confirming Burkett's story that Bush was ordered to take his medical exam and refused to do so. Burkett says he was busy but agreed to pick them up at Houston on March 3, and says did so.
 
So how did these reporters, so close in time to the Kerry communication on this same point, suddenly get the idea, in late April/early May, that Burkett had documents on Bush's TANG service? And why would they seek documents which probably could not have existed, if they gave credence to Conn, who said the story was false?

Was someone spreading the word?  How would the person who gave the cue to the press know there was something there, unless he were involved in creating the documents and passing them to Burkett? And, if that's so, reporters other than Mapes who contacted Burkett are in the best position to crack this mystery.
 
There must have been others also in the know. How else to explain that on August 11 the Chairman of the Tennessee State Vets for Kerry hinted on a radio interview that there was new evidence regarding Bush's failure to take his medical exam and loss of flight status? This is particularly curious because on August 13 Burkett posted an internet  article indicating that he had not yet seen documentary evidence of the claim.

But it is approximately this time (mid—August is the best date CBS has given) when Burkett gave CBS the first 2 of the 6 memos.  On August 21, Burkett posted on the web that he had spoken to Max Cleland, who said he did want to mount a "counterattack" to the Swift Boats campaign.

Four days later, Burkett posted on the web that "we have reassembled" the Bush files. No explanation is given for whom the 'we' refers to. Nor is the meaning of 'reassamebled' clear. And a time frame is notably absent. But according to Burkett and Van Os (if you choose the believe them), the phony memos had been in his hands since March 3. The only new development is that by August 21 he had turned 2 of them over to CBS.
 
By September, it is clear that someone either within CBS or Kerry's camp (or both) was leaking the details of the story. On September 1, liberal blogger Josh Marshall reported that Sixty Minutes was working on a story about Bush's service, and on September 2 , Salon reported that there were "unanswered questions" respecting the President's service in TANG.

Two days later, Lockhart called Burkett. Lockhart says he's 99.9% sure he didn't discuss the memos. This is not terribly believable, because by this time Texans for Truth was about to launch its ad campaign, Operation Fortunate Son, in which these documents would be certain to play a big supporting role. The scent of collusion is obvious to me. But then I was the first kid in my class to figure out there was no Santa Claus.

The next day, September 5, Burkett gave the remaining 4 memos to CBS. And the very next day, Terry McAuliffe issued a release raising questions about Bush's service. The DNC followed this up with yet another presser on the same topic on September 7.
 
On September 8 the CBS story runs.
 
The DNC must have worked very hard that evening because it gave three more pressers on the topic on September 9.

The next day the Boston Globe got a TANG document dump; Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times wrote a TANG piece; Texans for Truth began running its Operation Fortunate Son ads; and McAuliffe held a press conference alleging the President was AWOL.

+++++++++++++++++
 
To maximize a campaign story, one must plant seeds in the public mind about it beforehand and get the troops in line to capitalize on it after it breaks. It is hard for me to look at this timeline and (assuming the parties have told the truth) not see judicious leaks ahead of time, and a well—planned campaign to maximize its impact once the story broke.

And it is even harder to imagine all this without believing that whoever gave the documents to Burkett also told the press that Burkett had them. That person  may also have been the one contacting the Tennesee State Vets for Kerry, Texans for Truth and the DNC.
 
Just who do you suppose would do all of that?

UPDATE: Reader William Henslee writes the following interesting comments:

1. The Nicolas Kristoff column in the NYT was datelined and online on Sept 8th, not Sept 9th.  That was the same date of the CBS program and had to be done prior to the CBS broadcast. Its also interesting to note that the Times online edition of this column already had a place for readers to enroll for continuing 'breaking news' bulletins on the Air National Guard story. Someone would have had to write the code for that on Sept 8th after the Times staff anticipated that there were going to be a lot of additional breaking news on the story. 

2. The NYT article on the TANG documents also carried a Sept.8th dateline, although in was published on Sept. 9th. The story also credited a NYT staffer in Dallas, Texas with contributions to the story, so the Times would have to have had prior knowledge of the date to break the information in order to get an outlying staffer to work on it.

3. The Boston Globe also ran a story on the TANG matter on Sept 8th. Although the paper claimed its 'Spotlight Team' had done the investigative work. ( Boston Globe Archives, 2004—09—10 ) THE GLOBE SPOTLIGHT TEAM HAS SCORED ANOTHER BULL'S—EYE WITH ITS REPORT ON GEORGE W. BUSH'S VIOLATION OF HIS CONTRACT WITH THE GOVERNMENT FOR SERVICE IN THE AIR NATIONAL GUARD, AND HIS STAFF'S SUBSEQUENT EGREGIOUS DENIAL AND MISREPRESENTATION OF THE FACTS (PAGE A1, SEPT. 8).

4. Both the NYT column by Nicolas Kristoff of Sept. 8th and the Boston Globe article on Sept. 8th use an analysis of Bush service records from the same retired Lt. Col Lechliter, vouching for him as an expert who has conclusively proved that Bush failed to fulfill his Guard duties. It seems unusual that two media giants separated by hundreds of miles would seek out the same 'expert' on the same day to validate their stories. Who is Lechliter? Is he an aparatchnik of the Kerry Campaign?

I believe this is sufficient evidence of collusion between these media outlets on the timing of the stories to infer that they were being fed information by someone in the Kerry campaign.

Our own Steve Gilbert, whose articles on this site contend that Burkett composed the docuemnts himself in August, naturally politely dissents:

The claim is made that one of the memos was created in February, which is based on a a LGF story which says that Fox's .pdfs show a Feb creation date.

Since the pdf is of a fax that is itself dated Sep 10, this is easily explained that the computer used to make the pdf had an inaccurate time stamp. (The computer's clock and date was off—which is not at all uncommon, especially in work computers.)

The author asks why the media would get in touch with Burkett months ago? Well, Burkett was a one man band in February, trotting out (once again) his story about having seen Bush's records destroyed. This all was in the context of Terry McAuliff and Michael Moore raising it again——and Farenheit 9/11 coming out...
 
Remember, Burkett claims to be (and surely is) one of the sources for Michael Moore's docu—fantasy.

Lastly, the Aug 11 foreshadowing by the Chairman of the Tennessee State Vets for Kerry did not mention documents. Indeed, the remarks are clearly about a different subject, the introduction of drug testing, which was a canard being raised by the ultra left around that time. It is discussed here.

UPDATE 2: A reader adds the following comments:

Texans for Truth is a 527 technically separate from the DNC.  Texans for Truth, according to the IRS was formed on 8/31/04, and created its commercial blasting Bush's National Guard service on 9/7/04 the day before the CBS Story. 

Terry McAuliffe held a press conference on 9/6/04 devoted to questioning Bush's National Guard Service, minutes after the CBS Story on 9/8/04 McAuliffe issued a statement about Bush's National Guard service quoting the CBS Story, and Operation Fortunate Son was launched as a DNC operation on 9/9/04 referencing the CBS Story as proof, with Sen. Tom Harkin running around holding press conferences and town hall meetings questioning Bush's National Guard service again referencing the CBS Story.

So we are to believe that it is coincidental that within a span of four days:

9/6/04   McAuliffe holds press conference questioning Bush's NG Service

9/7/04   Texans for Truth airs a commercial questioning Bush's NG Service

9/8/04   CBS, The Boston Globe, and the NY Times do stories questioning Bush's NG Service

9/9/04   DNC Launches Operation Fortunate Son questioning Bush's NG Service

Another angle I don't see anyone exploring is the role of Texans for Truth.  This is a 527, if they were coordinated into this attack that is a violation of McCain—Feingold.