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Guard files said to be faxed from copy shop

CBS acknowledges increasing doubts about authenticity

WASHINGTON -- Documents allegedly written by a deceased officer that raised questions about President Bush's service with the Texas Air National Guard bore markings showing they had been faxed to CBS News from a Kinko's copy shop in Abilene, Texas, according to another former Guard officer who was shown the records by the network.

The markings provide one piece of evidence suggesting a source for the documents, whose authenticity has been hotly disputed since CBS aired them in a "60 Minutes" broadcast Sept. 8. The network has declined to name the person who provided them, saying the source was confidential, or to explain how the documents came to light after more than three decades.

There is only one Kinko's in Abilene, and it is 21 miles from the Baird, Texas, home of retired Texas National Guard officer Bill Burkett, who has been named by several news outlets as a possible source for the documents.

Robert Strong, who was one of three people interviewed by "60 minutes," said he was shown copies of the documents by CBS anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes on Sept. 5, three days before the broadcast. He said at least one of the documents bore a faxed header indicating it had been sent from a Kinko's in Abilene.

In an interview last night, CBS anchor Dan Rather acknowledged for the first time that there are serious questions about the authenticity of the documents. "If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I'd like to break that story," Rather said. "Any time I'm wrong, I want to be right out front and say, 'Folks, this is what went wrong and how it went wrong.' "

Rather spoke after interviewing the secretary to Bush's former squadron commander, who told him the memos attributed to her late boss are fake, but that they reflected the commander's belief that Bush was receiving preferential treatment to escape some of his Guard commitments.

The former secretary, Marian Carr Knox, is the latest person to raise questions about the "60 Minutes" story, which Rather and top CBS officials still defend while vowing to investigate the mounting questions about whether the 30-year-old documents used in the story were part of a hoax.

And CBS News President Andrew Heyward in an interview acknowledged that there were "unresolved issues" that the network wanted "to get to the bottom of." Since the broadcast, critics have pointed to a host of unexplained problems about the memos, which bore dates from 1972 and 1973, including signs that they had been written on a computer rather than a Vietnam-era typewriter.

"I feel that we did a tremendous amount of reporting before the story went on the air or we wouldn't have put it on the air," Heyward said in an interview last night.   Continued...

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