One of those stories had a link to a PDF of four of the memos, dated 1972 and 1973. Here's one such link. When I first looked at those memos, I thought it was very strange that the memos were in a proportional font. There was a typewriter in moderately common use then that could do proportional spacing, the IBM Executive, but I don't remember its typeface looking like these memos (although it's a bit hard to tell with the poor reproduction). Also, one of the memos had a centered header, which was extremely hard to do on an IBM Executive. They were hard to use; they would have been somewhat high-end things to find in a random National Guard office (outside of a publications group or something like that, where you could use them to produce professional-looking documents without having to have something typeset). So my first thought was "this thing doesn't look like it dates from 1972."
A post on BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow's blog, pointed out the same thing, and also called my attention to the fact that the fourth memo has "18th", with a small superscript th. That was not produced on a typewriter in 1973! But recent versions of Microsoft Word will helpfully do that for you if you just type "18th". In fact, in some of the other memos, "th" is separated from a preceding number by a space, which looks very strange, but would make sense if somebody who didn't know Word very well were trying to get it to stop doing that.
The short of it is that it looks like they were very amateurish forgeries.
The memos were evidently released by 60 Minutes. I read one allusion to them being released by the White House as well.
Here's some more information:
- The Sixty-First Minute on Powerlineblog.
- An image of Bush's memo requesting discharge to attend Harvard Business School, with an addition by Lt. Col. Killian recommending approval. (I think that was done on a Selectric with a Prestige Elite type ball.)
- A Little Green Footballs thread that suggests the memo from 1972 was typed into a current version of Microsoft Word with all default settings.
- An article on a forgery expert's examination of the purported memos. (This one is pretty convincing.)
So the question is, who forged these memos and why? They look unflattering to Bush, so it seems unlikely that the Bush campaign or pro-Bush groups planted them. I personally think the Kerry campaign is above that sort of thing, but even if they weren't, I think they would have done a better job (even bearing in mind that stuff like this needs to be done by a very small group of people). It's not like typewriters are hard to come by. So, an independent anti-Bush group maybe? Or should we put our tinfoil hats on and assume the forgery was supposed to be discovered, or that the memos were supposed to distract from something else? (I suppose one much less sinister possibility is that somebody retyped the original memos, but then why would 60 Minutes try to pass them off as photocopies of the originals, and why would some of them have Killian's signature? Did any of you see the actual 60 Minutes piece?)
Anyway, I detect weirdness ahead.