The Obama White House is denying claims that the letters sent to families of fallen Navy SEALs were signed by an electronic autopen that can replicate his signature. But a veterans group isn't ready to just take the administration at its word and has vowed to get to the bottom of "autopen-gate," FoxNews.com reports.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Friday that every letter sent to families of slain service members is signed by the hand of President Obama.
"The President signs every such letter personally," he said.
Even so, Veterans for a Strong America, a nonpartisan military watchdog group, says it will hire a handwriting expert to determine whether the letters sent to the parents of Navy SEALs killed in Afghanistan were signed by the commander-in-chief or by the previously mentioned electronic autopen.
FoxNews.com has more details on this story:
Karen and Billy Vaughn, whose son Aaron Vaughn was one of 17 SEALs and 13 other Americans killed in a helicopter crash Aug. 6, 2011, raised the issue at a Tea Party rally in Tampa during the Republican National Convention. Karen Vaughn said she compared the signature on her letter, dated Sept. 23, 2011, with those received by other families of SEALs and determined the signature was mechanical.
An autopen is a machine that can be programmed to duplicate an individual's John Hancock. Seen as more personal than a stamp but less than a hand-signature, the device was first used in the White House by President Harry Truman. President Obama made history when he became the first chief executive to use the device to sign a bill, authorizing its use to extend key provisions of the Patriot Act last year while he was in France.
Aaron Vaughn was part of a rescue team that was sent to a mountainous area in the Wardak Providence in August of last year to assist an Army Ranger unit that was under heavy fire. The team had completed their mission but their Chinook helicopter was shot down as they were departing. Nearly 40 people perished, marking it one of the deadliest single incident losses in the decade-long war in Afghanistan.
"After reviewing letters from several families of fallen Navy SEALs, it appears that the letters may have been auto-penned, so we are going to have nationally recognized handwriting experts review the letters given the strong circumstantial evidence which exists in this case," Joel Arends, chairman of Veterans for a Strong America said in a statement to FoxNews.com.
Arends is also peeved that the condolences were merely form letters, with only the names of the recipients changed. That's something the White House had no choice but to admit -- and they did. However, officials added that presidents have always sent form letters, especially when war deaths stack up.
According to FoxNews.com, Newsweek started a media firestorm in 2003 by reported that condolence letters from the President George W. Bush were form letters, "With the exception of the salutation and a reference to the fallen soldier in the text."
Yet the Washington Times reported in 2008 that President Bush had also sent personalized letters to roughly 4,000 families of fallen soldiers and 9/11 victims. It was a gesture that reportedly went largely unrecognized by the media.