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Saturday, September 18, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

"Buckhead," who said CBS memos were forged, is a GOP-linked attorney

By Peter Wallsten
Los Angeles Times

TEXAS AIR NATIONAL GUARD MUSEUM / AP
Then-Congressman George Bush, left, and National Guardsman 2nd Lt. George W. Bush are seen in 1968 in San Antonio.
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WASHINGTON — It was the first public allegation that CBS News used forged memos in its report questioning President Bush's National Guard service — a highly technical explanation posted within hours of airtime citing proportional spacing and font styles.

But it did not come from an expert in typography or typewriter history as some first thought. Instead, it was the work of Harry MacDougald, an Atlanta lawyer with strong ties to conservative Republican causes and who helped draft the petition urging the Arkansas Supreme Court to disbar President Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Los Angeles Times has found.

The identity of "Buckhead," a blogger known previously only by his screen name on the Web site freerepublic.com and lifted to folk-hero status in the conservative blogosphere since last week's posting, is likely to fuel speculation among Democrats that the efforts to discredit the CBS memos were engineered by Republicans eager to undermine reports that Bush received preferential treatment in the National Guard more than 30 years ago.

Republican officials have denied involvement among those debunking the CBS story.

Reached by telephone yesterday, MacDougald, 46, confirmed that he is Buckhead but declined to answer questions about his political background or how he knew so much about the CBS documents so quickly.

"You can ask the questions, but I'm not going to answer them," he said. "I'm just going to stick to doing no interviews."

Until he was identified by piecing together information from his postings over the past two years, MacDougald had taken pains to remain in the shadows — saying the credit for challenging CBS should remain with the blogosphere as a whole and not one individual.

MacDougald is a lawyer in the Atlanta office of the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice and is affiliated with two prominent conservative legal groups, the Federalist Society and the Southeastern Legal Foundation, where he serves on the legal-advisory board.

Founded in 1976, the Southeastern Legal Foundation advocates "limited government, individual economic freedom, and the free enterprise system," according to its Web site.

MacDougald helped draft the foundation's petition in 1998 that led to the five-year suspension of Clinton's Arkansas law license for giving misleading testimony in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment case.

Operating as "Buckhead," also the name of an upscale Atlanta neighborhood, MacDougald wrote that the CBS memos presented as being written in the early 1970s by the late Lt. Col. Jerry Killian were "in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman."
 
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"The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction of laser printers, word processing software and personal computers," MacDougald wrote on the freerepublic Web site. "They were not widespread until the mid to late 90's. Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn't used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang systems that were dominant in the mid 80's used monospaced fonts.

"I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old. This should be pursued aggressively."

The Sept. 8 late-night posting — written less than four hours after the CBS report was aired — resulted in a flurry of sympathetic testimonials from fellow bloggers. Major newspapers began consulting forensic experts and reporting stories that raised similar questions the next day.

The network has insisted that the four memos, dated from 1972 and 1973, had been authenticated by the network's experts and by "close associates" of Killian, who confirm "that the documents reflect his opinions and actions at the time."

The memos showed Killian resisting pressure by a higher-up to "sugarcoat" Bush's performance evaluation and ordering Bush to take a physical examination so he could keep flying.

CBS has cited an expert, Bill Glennon, an information-technology consultant, who said IBM electric typewriters that were in use in 1972 could provide proportional spacing and the superscript — the small "th" — evident in the disputed memos.

The network also has sought to counter the arguments by referring to a typewriting script distributor, who says the typing style in the memos has been available since 1931. Moreover, CBS notes, some of the lettering in question was evident in Bush's military records previously released by the White House.

Still, when Killian's former secretary came forward this week to say she did not believe the memos were authentic either, anchor Dan Rather and other network executives stopped asserting that the memos were real. They said they would "redouble" efforts to resolve unanswered questions.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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