Find the forger


A reader calls my attention to William Safire's latest New York Times column, in which Safire points out that the forged Texas Air National Guard documents which were used by Dan Rather as the basis for a "60 Minutes II" story aren't just a dirty trick, they constitute a felony violation of Federal law, namely:

Whoever, having devised any scheme or artifice to defraud transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. " U.S. Criminal Code, Chapter 63, Section 1343.

Pointing us back to the "third-rate burglary" at the Watergate back in 1972, Safire says that we must not be satisfied with the political fallout -- like the Watergate burglary, this appears to be a violation of the law in an attempt to influence the outcome of a presidential election:

What should CBS do now? First, release Rather's interview with Burkett in its entirety; viewers are entitled to the outtakes now. Next, let Mary Mapes, at the center of all this, speak to reporters. Third, expend some Viacom resources to track down the possible original sources, including the man whose name Burkett says he "threw out" to mislead CBS.

Appointing independent reviewers should not be a device to duck all others' questions; that's Kofi Annan's trick to stonewall his oil-for-food scandal. But lacking the power of a grand jury's subpoena or testimony under oath, victimized CBS cannot put real heat on the perpetrator or conspirators. We have hard evidence of crimes by low-level operatives here - from wire fraud to forgery - as well as the potential of high-level political involvement. Is no prosecutor prepared to enforce the law?

Conservatives should stop slavering over Dan Rather's scalp, and liberals should stop pretending that noble ends justify fake-evidence means. Both should focus on the lesson of the early 70's: from third-rate burglaries to fourth-rate forgeries, nobody gets away with trying to corrupt American elections.

Who would investigate and prosecute such a crime? As a violation of federal law, it would come under the Department of Justice, through the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U. S. Attorney's office. Charges would probably be brought in Texas, whence the forged documents were faxed. Congress couldn't do anything directly in this case, although they could bring some political pressure to bear on the Department of Justice to pursue the matter. A note to your congressman would be a way to ensure that the matter isn't ignored.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 26, 2004 5:36 PM.

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