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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

CBS Had a Secret Private Eye Chasing Rathergate Memo Source

Joe Hagan of The New York Observer is reporting that former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former AP head Lou Boccardi Jr. were not the only investigators retained by CBS to probe Rathergate. There was also a private eye the network specifically retained to find the source of the forged memos at the heart of the scandal.

You knew about Thornburgh and Boccardi. Now meet Erik T. Rigler:

"Five days later, CBS launched another inquiry into the memo scandal. The network hired a private investigator named Erik T. Rigler, a former F.B.I. agent and Navy aviator, to track down the source of the troublesome documents.
"Mr. Rigler’s sleuthing was not mentioned in the list of interviews and other pursuits in the independent panel’s final report on Jan. 10. Though CBS had promised transparency in investigating the memo scandal, of a half-dozen CBS News producers who spoke to The Observer, only one had even heard a rumor that the network had hired the private investigator."

Not everybody within CBS was unaware of Rigler's assignment. CBS anchor Dan Rather and his senior producer Mary Mapes knew, according to Hagan. Mapes reportedly gave Rigler all of her notes and leads, but he was unable to determine the source.

Guess where Rigler's search ended? With longtime Bush critic Bill Burkett and a deadend. But Rigler's work was not without fruit, as he produced a two-page memo regarding Mapes that was given to Thornburgh and Boccardi, according to Hagan. Mapes was angered that what she thought was an attempt to determine who suckered CBS with fake memos apparently became instead a critical look into the details of her version of the events leading to the memos being given to CBS and used for the Rather-anchored Sept. 10, 2004, broadcast.

CBS has confirmed its hiring of Rigler but denied that his assignment was to collect information about any network employee. Considering the determination of the three CBS employees who were asked to resign in the wake of Rathergate to take their cases to court, it seems increasingly clear that this scandal is poised to get very ugly and very public very quickly.

Read the whole Hagan story by clicking on the headline above this posting.