Excerpts from the report:
On Monday, August 23, Mapes learned that Lieutenant Colonel Burkett was rumored to have important documents regarding the President’s TexANG service. Paul Lukasiak, who operates a website on which he posts disparaging analyses of President Bush’s TexANG service, told Mapes that another blogger, Linda Starr, had seen new TexANG documents regarding President Bush. Starr hosts a website that recently contained the slogan, “Bush lied, Americans died,” and is the editor of Online Journal, an online newsletter often critical of President Bush.
Mapes contacted Starr, who responded that she believed that Lieutenant Colonel Burkett had a two-page, classified document regarding President Bush’s TexANG service, and Starr speculated that it might be a disciplinary report. This disciplinary report was thought to relate to an assessment of whether Lieutenant Bush was fit to fly jets armed with nuclear weapons. Starr told Mapes that Lieutenant Colonel Burkett was trying to determine the best way to disseminate the information to journalists "without leaving any fingerprints." (IRP Report, pp. 59-60)
So Mary Mapes got a tip from Lukasiak, an anti-Bush web citizen, stating that Starr, an anti-Bush editor/blogger, might have some documents relating to the AWOL story. And Starr sent Mapes on to Burkett.
Between August 24 and August 31, Mapes and Smith spoke to Lieutenant Colonel Burkett many times. They also spoke to Starr because they believed that Lieutenant Colonel Burkett respected and trusted her, and they thought that an alliance with Starr might help them to convince Lieutenant Colonel Burkett to give them the document(s). (ibid, p. 60)
So, in the interests of gaining this new document, the 60 Minutes news team allied itself with a source that it recognized to be biased to the left. Conflict of interest? Breaking of standards? Unfortunately, I'm not an expert in journalism, but it sounds fishy to me. Is this acceptable?
On Sunday, September 5, Colonel Charles was still involved in attempting to confirm facts related to the Killian documents. Colonel Charles spoke to Lukasiak and asked him for additional samples of Killian’s signatures from public documents. (ibid, p. 83)
Colonel Roger Charles was Mary Mapes's military affairs consultant. He asked Lukasiak to track down examples of Killian's signatures on public record.
Many of the sources of information that were used for the September 8 Segment had an anti-Bush political agenda. First, Lieutenant Colonel Burkett was a visible and outspoken critic of President Bush. Second, Mapes and Smith also relied on Linda Starr to assist in obtaining the documents from him. Her website was and still is filled with anti-Bush statements. Third, it appears that Mapes first came to learn about Linda Starr and her possible link to TexANG records from Paul Lukasiak, another anti-Bush blogger. Fourth, Ben Barnes appeared on the September 8 Segment to claim that he provided assistance to President Bush to gain entry to the TexANG. Barnes was a well-known supporter of, and fundraiser for, Senator Kerry’s presidential campaign.
The Panel recognizes the appearance problems involved in receiving information from partisan individuals. It is not at all unusual or inappropriate, however, for news organizations to obtain information from a political, business or other opponent of the subject of an investigation, given that supporters are manifestly less likely to provide critical or damaging information. It only becomes problematic if the political bias of the source is allowed by the reporter to affect the fairness of the story.
The Panel does not believe that evidence exists to demonstrate that the political leanings of any source influenced the production of the September 8 Segment. Doubtless, however, these sources to some degree sought to use 60 Minutes Wednesday to further their own political agendas, as they likely viewed a TexANG story on President Bush’s service as potentially helpful to efforts to defeat President Bush in his reelection campaign. It goes without saying that CBS News must guard against being used by people pursuing particular agendas and must have careful and balanced reporting and vetting. As noted below, management of 60 Minutes Wednesday and CBS News recognized the political significance and sensitivity of the story and made a number of edits to the September 8 Segment script to make it more balanced. (ibid, pp. 213-214)
So I guess the Panel sees no problem with the alliance between 60 Minutes and Linda Starr.
In order to emphasize what 60 Minutes allied itself with, here's an excerpt from Starr's blog, from a post regarding the Swift Boat Vets dated August 27, 2004:
These guys are goons and have been proven to be liars repeatedly. I don't like to make such a denigrating personal comment, but gee, Steve Gardner looks like a reject out of a "Planet of the Apes" movie. I have yet to see another human look so much like an ape in a suit. Gardner also comes across as a liar to me. In my opinion, he is just a loser who hates Kerry because Kerry is everything he could never be - articulate, refined, educated, sophisticated and cool under pressure . Gardner did everything but come out and directly threaten Kerry's life. I hope the Secret Service checks out the transcript. At one point, Gardner was hollering over Ian that Kerry can't be commander in chief! At least Larry Thurlow didn't totally embarrass himself.
It's obvious that the Swfit Boat LIARS are pure partisans, eaten up with jealousy over Kerry's many wonderful accomplishments. Kerry is a gentleman, who protested the war courageously, but only after he served in it heroically. John Kerry did positive things with his life. The disparity between Gardner and Kerry is nearly as big as the disparity between GWB and Kerry.
GWB isn't even in the same class with John Kerry. There simply are no fair and balanced comparisons, because comparing GWB to Kerry is like comparing Dom Perignon, to near beer.
Emphasis in preceding quotes mine.