KILLIAN MEMO UPDATE….The Killian memo story has spun way out of control, but since I’m getting so much mail about it I’d like to make a few comments:

  • Yes, IBM (and others) made typewriters with proportional fonts in 1972. In fact, my 8th grade teacher had one and showed me how to use it. They were a bit unusual, but they weren’t wildly uncommon and they weren’t wildly expensive.

  • IBM also made typewriters with interchangable fonts. This would have allowed Killian to use the superscript “th” that’s gotten so much attention.

  • However, it does not appear that IBM made a typewriter with both proportional type and the capability to make a superscripted “th.”

But: note that “appears” does not mean “didn’t.” There are legitimate questions about what kind of machine created those memos, but so far nobody has proven anything one way or the other.

However, although the font used in the memos is worth investigating, my own concerns are more related to the provenance and appearance of the memos:

  • It seems odd that the memos were simply typed on blank sheets of paper instead of some kind of letterhead.

  • It seems odd that no other document we’ve seen from George Bush’s military file looks anything like this or was typed using this machine.

  • It seems odd that one of the memos uses a different font from the other three. Did Killian’s office have two executive typewriters with different fonts?

  • Where did they come from? Killian has been dead for 20 years. Did someone with a lot of foresight decide to keep copies of just those four memos 20 years ago? Why?

  • Are there copies of any other Killian memos around that we can compare these to? Or are these the only four memos of his still in existence?

  • Has anyone looked through the microfilm records of the 111th F.I.S. to see if there are other examples of documents that look similar to these?

Bottom line: these memos might be 100% genuine. But there are lots of legitimate questions about their origin and authenticity, and at a minimum CBS ought to make its own copies available for inspection and also ought to disclose the names of the typographic experts it consulted. Better yet would be convincing their source to either go public, allow inspection of the original memos, or at least allow a more thorough discussion of exactly where the documents came from.

Until then, I’m afraid skepticism is warranted. I hope CBS hasn’t gotten burned by crude forgeries, but like they say, hope is not a plan.