Paper Trail

Plus: Old Hand; When Fanboys Dream

 Paper Trail
Plano woman gets drawn into the Bush memo flap

Linda James complains her house is completely overtaken by her business. "I've had to knock out walls to make room," she says. James has been a forensic document examiner for the past 13 years. Her house bulges with stacks of photographs of signature samples, boxes marked "evidence" and imaging equipment. She transformed her game room into a laboratory equipped with an assortment of camera bodies, lenses, microscopes and a machine called a video spectral comparator used to analyze inks.

She points to a long room next to the lab that once was a wet bar. She ripped it out and converted the space into a storage room, filling it with rows of filing cabinets and fireproof safes. The last few days have been frantic for James and her tiny Plano business. Television crews from Fox News, CNN and NBC have filed through her dining room, which serves as a front office area and conference center. She's had a string of calls from radio and print journalists. "It's like an invasion," she says. "All of a sudden, I can't pay attention to my workload. All I wanted to do was make that statement."

Linda James raised questions in CBS' memo imbroglio.
Steve Satterwhite
Linda James raised questions in CBS' memo imbroglio.
CBS chose not to use this suspect memo in a report on President Bush's Guard service. Too bad the network used others.
Steve Satterwhite
CBS chose not to use this suspect memo in a report on President Bush's Guard service. Too bad the network used others.

The statement to which James refers is one she hoped would distance her from the September 8 CBS 60 Minutes broadcast that featured purported 30-year-old documents alleging that political favoritism was exerted to get President George W. Bush into the Texas Air National Guard and then fluff up his record. Under a blizzard of criticism concerning the authenticity of the explosive memos, CBS stated in a September 10 Washington Post story that each of the documents "was thoroughly vetted by independent experts, and we are convinced of their authenticity." (On Monday, the network said it could not authenticate four documents used in the story and that the report was a "mistake in judgment.")

"I didn't want it to be known, if it ever came out, that I was one of the ones," James says. "I didn't want it known that I had authenticated them, because I hadn't. I didn't want anyone to think that I was one of those [independent experts]."

James' role in the CBS imbroglio began on September 3, when she says she was contacted by CBS and asked if she could attempt to authenticate some documents. She also was asked to provide the names of other document experts, which she did, giving them contact information for Marcel Matley and Emily Will. The next day, a CBS representative hand delivered the documents to her Plano home. "They did not tell me what it was about at all," she says. "I did not know what the documents were until they came."

When she opened the envelope, she discovered two memos allegedly written by Bush's guard commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian, along with an assortment of National Guard documents known to be authentic for comparison.

At the outset, James says, she noticed significant problems with the two documents, one of which was dated August 1, 1972, while the other carried a June 24, 1973, date. (The latter document was not included in the four documents used by CBS in its 60 Minutes broadcast. USA Today has reported that there were originally six memos.) Immediately James said she was struck by discrepancies between the Killian signature on the 1973 memo and those Killian signatures on the authenticated documents. (The August 1, 1972, memo has Killian's initials. Killian died in 1984.)

She points to breaks in the signature, dropouts (that could be the result of repeated copying) with lines not consistent with his "knowns" or known signature features. She says she requested CBS provide more documents, stating she had insufficient samples to distinguish between natural signature variation and the possible scrawl of a forger. James also asked CBS if they had any information on Killian's medical history that might include broken bones, medications or possible neurological disorders that could explain the strange breaks in the signature she was examining.

She zeroed in on other discrepancies, noting that each document revealed diverging typing habits. In the 1972 memo, the word "subject" in the heading is entirely uppercase, while in the 1973 memo only "S" is capitalized. Also, the 1973 memo has a "111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron" heading at the top with only the "34567" post office box beneath it, while the 1972 memo includes the complete address with the city, state and ZIP code. In addition, the 1973 memo has a comma between the month and the year, while the 1972 memo has no commas in the date. But what is perhaps most striking in the 1973 memo is the salutation "sir," even though the memo is not addressed to anyone. (James says she didn't have time to fully investigate the typographic discrepancies in both documents pointed out in other reports.)

"There are just a lot of questions that are unanswered," James says. "Red flags go up when certain things are there...And they're major. They're not little ones."

James says she raised her concerns with CBS the day before the broadcast aired. "They told me at the last that they were not going to use the handwriting part, that they decided to have a guard, this National Guardsman, to vouch for the documents," she says. "So I thought, 'OK. They're not going to go on with this.'" (She says CBS didn't tell her who the National Guard officer was, but CBS later revealed they had contacted Retired Major General Bobby Hodges of Arlington to authenticate the documents.)

James says she was startled when CBS went ahead with the broadcast, but she was even more surprised by some of the comments from CBS once the memos were challenged. A September 15 Associated Press story quotes CBS as stating that James played only a "peripheral role" in assessing the documents and that she had seen only one of the documents (August 1, 1972) used in the report. The network said James and Will ultimately deferred to Marcel Matley, who had seen all four documents. James hotly disputes this.

"I never deferred, nor would I ever defer, to another examiner," she says. "I gave them Marcel's name at the time we were all doing our examinations."

She also contests a CBS statement published on September 16 in the Los Angeles Times in which the network stated James and Will "misrepresented their conversations and communication with CBS News" and "did not raise substantial objections or render definitive judgment" on the single document they looked at. Though she says it's true she never rendered a definitive judgment (she says to this day she doesn't have enough information to definitively declare them forgeries), James maintains she did raise substantial objections concerning the validity of the memos and repeatedly asked CBS for more information to complete her analysis. She also finds it curious the network decided to discard the June 24, 1973, memo yet went ahead with the other in the 60 Minutes broadcast.

"I just think that when you have major problems like this, your client should listen to you as a specialist," she says. "If I was the client, I certainly would get the documents required because I would want to know the truth, one way or another." --Mark Stuertz

Old Hand

Kevin is 33, plays the piano by ear, cross-dresses as Tina Turner--though he looks like Oprah doing Tina Turner--bartends, nannies, emcees and is the only Dallasite on Mark Cuban's reality TV series The Benefactor--aside, of course, from Cuban himself.

"The day I got a call from Cuban saying I'd made the show, I was screaming like a white woman," says Kevin, whose last name neither he nor ABC will divulge.

That he screamed like a white woman--or, as he more aptly puts it, like the white women on Oprah, the show he watches religiously--or that he screamed at all comes as a surprise. Kevin's been on TV lots of times.

There was the time, in the early '90s, after he'd dropped out of Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, that he sent a tape of himself to the short-lived Joan Rivers Show. Rivers had a feature called "Life Swap," in which she switched jobs for a day with a viewer. Kevin worked at Chuck E. Cheese at the time. Rivers loved it and flew him to New York as one of five "Life Swap" finalists. In the end, she didn't choose him, but he still has a tape of the episode.

In the mid-'90s, Kevin did a drag stand-up routine around Dallas that channeled the aforementioned Turner through the body of Oprah. It killed. Kevin sent a tape to The Maury Povich Show, hoping to be the guy (or gal) who warms up the crowd before taping begins. Instead, he went on the show as a drag queen. Then, two months later, he returned with one of his nine siblings for a "Drag Queen Makeover."

Kevin's dream is to have a talk show of his own. So far, though, the regulars at J.R.'s on Cedar Springs Road, where he tends bar, are the only ones calling.

Which isn't so bad. "Now, I can frown and get a date," Kevin says. --Paul Kix

When Fanboys Dream

It is, by his own admission, "a fanboy dream come true." Two weeks ago, Hillcrest High School grad Greg Pak made his comic-book debut as the writer of Marvel's resurrected Warlock. The title character--"an artificial creation of a group of mad scientists who wanted to use him and his nearly godlike powers to take over the world," as Pak describes him--has been around since 1967 and was a longtime favorite of the sci-fi set. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and illustrated by Jim Starlin, Adam Warlock was a bad guy who became a good guy--and, occasionally, a dead guy. Pak's the latest writer to take over writing Adam Warlock, but he's the first to place the hero in the real world, meaning he won't bump into Spider-Man.

Indeed, the first issue of Warlock begins with newscasts blaring news of troops being killed in an unidentified country. The book's heroine, a designer named Janie Chin, thinks she's fashioning a superhero outfit for a movie and has no idea her threads are going to be worn by a manmade god who's supposed to save the world from "environmental destruction, political and social chaos...and the rise of fundamentalism."

"[Political theorist] Max Weber once wrote about politicians doing the work of the devil, by which he meant that we elect our leaders to make life-and-death decisions that our religions tell us are reserved for God alone," Pak says. "But what happens to a mere human who takes on those kinds of responsibilities?"

Pak got the Warlock assignment six months ago, after some Marvel editors saw his recently released sci-fi anthology film Robot Stories, in which, he says, "I explored themes of artificial intelligences acquiring emotion." How long he keeps the job depends on how well the title sells; Jeremy Shorr, owner of Titan Comics near Bachman Lake, says he moved 25 issues the first week, which is about average for the first issue of a new Marvel title.

"These Marvel Comics characters are bigger than all of us who work on them," Pak says. "They've been reinvented countless times in the past and will continue to be reimagined as long as the medium survives. It's a thrill to be part of that process and history." --Robert Wilonsky

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