Rather's story is crumbling

Story in the WaPo: Expert Cited by CBS Says He Didn't Authenticate Papers.

The story starts off:

The lead expert retained by CBS News to examine disputed memos from President Bush's former squadron commander in the National Guard said yesterday that he examined only the late officer's signature and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves.

"There's no way that I, as a document expert, can authenticate them," Marcel Matley said in a telephone interview from San Francisco. The main reason, he said, is that they are "copies" that are "far removed" from the originals.

The story, which seems based on sound reporting, cites three classes of evidence that tell against the memos:

  1. Apparent use of word processing techniques in the CBS memos, as distinct from the clearly typewritten nature of the other Bush TexANG documents;
  2. Factual errors (e.g. incorrect address for Bush in one memo);
  3. Stylistic differences (abbreviations and other stylistic elements inconsistent with military guidelines, and with known genuine memos).

The one expert noted by the story as supporing CBS & Rather, Bill Glennon, contends that "IBM electric typewriters in use in 1972 could produce superscripts and proportional spacing similar to those used in the disputed documents." Note that this is a weak claim. In order to support the claim of the documents' authenticity, it must be shown that a typewriter of that era could produce a memo that matches the CBS documents at least as closely as the efforts to mimic them in Word (e.g. see here).

Here is another, more specific claim on the other side:

Thomas Phinney, program manager for fonts for the Adobe company in Seattle, which helped to develop the modern Times New Roman font, disputed Glennon's statement to CBS. He said "fairly extensive testing" had convinced him that the fonts and formatting used in the CBS documents could not have been produced by the most sophisticated IBM typewriters in use in 1972, including the Selectric and the Executive. He said the two systems used fonts of different widths.

Let's see how this pans out.


So, the forgeries would have slipped through if someone had thought to use a vintage typewriter? There are many other fake things in the memos, but would they have come to light if someone hadn't noticed the font? Scanning signatures and faking typing isn't all that hard.

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