After days of expressing confidence about the documents used in a "60 Minutes" report that raised new questions about President Bush's National Guard service, CBS News officials have grave doubts about the authenticity of the material, network officials said last night.
Those officials, who asked not to be identified, said CBS News would most likely make an announcement as early as today that it had been deceived about the documents' origins.
They cautioned that CBS News could still pull back from an announcement. Officials were meeting last night with Dan Rather, the anchor who presented the report, to go over the information it has collected about the documents before making a final decision. Rather was not available for comment late last night.
The report relied on four memorandums purported to be from the personal file of Bush's squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, who died 20 years ago. The memos, dated from the early 1970s, said that Killian was under pressure to "sugar coat" the record of the young Lt. Bush and that the officer had disobeyed an order to take a physical.
Last night's developments marked a dramatic turn for CBS News, which for a week stood by its Sept. 8 report as various document experts asserted that the typeface of the memos could have been produced only by a modern-day word processor, not Vietnam War-era typewriters.