Friday, September 10, 2004

Rather Lathered by the Blogosphere

InstaPundit says:
What we need from CBS is (1) the provenance of the documents; (2) chain of custody; (3) extrinsic evidence of reliability -- and the original documents, not just PDF copies on the web, made available to independent outside experts for review.

I think what we're getting is "trust us" and after-the-fact lawyering.

QandO demands more:
The blogosphere has been all over the CBS documents, but all the information is parceled out in penny packets all over the place. At the request of a reader, I thought I'd try to consolidate them into a single post. This is not canonical, of course, just the stuff I know about.

Typographical Arguments

1. The use of superscripted "th" in unit names, e.g. 187th. This was a highly unusual feature, available only on extremely expensive typewriters at the time.
2. The use of proportional fonts was, similarly, restricted to a small number of high-end typewriters.
3. The text of the memos appear to use letter kerning, a physical impossibility for any typewriter at the time.
4. Apostrophes in the documents use curled serifs. Typewriters used straight hash marks for both quotation marks and apostrophes.
5. The font appears indistinguishable from the Times New Roman computer font. While the Times Roman and Times fonts were rare, but available, in some typewriters at the time, the letters in Times Roman and Times took up more horizontal space than Times New Roman does. Times New Roman is exclusively a computer font.
6. Reproductions of the memos in Microsoft Word using 12pt TNR and the default Word page setup are indistinguishable from the memos when superimposed.
7. The typed squadron letterhead is centered on the page, an extremely difficult operation to perform manually.
8. Several highly reputable forensic document specialists have publicly stated their opinions that the documents were most likely computer generated, and hence, are forgeries.
9. The numeral 4 has no "foot" serif and a closed top. This is indicative of the Times New Roman Font, used exclusively by computers.

Stylistic Arguments

1. The memos do not use the proper USAF letterhead, in required use since 1948. Instead they are typed. In general, typed letterhead is restricted to computer-generated orders, which were usually printed by teletype, chain printer or daisy-wheel printer, the latter looking like a typed letter. Manually typed correspondence is supposed to use official USAF letterhead. However, even special orders, which used a typed letterhead, were required to use ALL CAPS in the letterhead.
2. The typed Letterhead gives the address as "Houston, Texas". The standard formulation for addresses at USAF installations should require the address to read "Ellington AFB, Texas".
3. Killian's signature block should read:


This is the required USAF formulation for a signature block.
4. Lt Col Killian's signature should be aligned to the left side of the page. Indented signature blocks are not a USAF standard.
5. The rank abbreviations are applied inconsistently and incorrectly, for example the use of periods in USAF rank abbreviations is incorrect. The modern formulation for rank abbreviations for the lieutenant grades in the USAF is 2Lt and 1Lt. In 1973, it may well have been 2nd Lt and 1st Lt, but that certainly wasn't correct in 1984, when I entered active duty, so I find the rank abbreviation questionable, and, in any event, they would not have included periods. Lt Col Killian's abbreviations are pretty much universally incorrect in the memos.
6. The unit name abbreviations use periods. This is incorrect. USAF unit abbreviations use only capital letters with no periods. For example, 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron would be abbreviated as 111th FIS, not 111th F.I.S.
7. The Formulation used in the memos, i.e., "MEMORANDOM FOR 1st Lt. Bush..." is incorrect. A memo would be written on plain (non-letterhead) paper, with the top line reading "MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD".
8. An order from a superior, directing a junior to perform a specific task would not be in the memorandum format as presented. Instead, it would use the USAF standard internal memo format, as follows:

FROM: Lt Col Killian, Richard B.

SUBJECT: Annual Physical Examination (Flight)

TO: 1Lt Bush, George W.

Documents that are titled as MEMORANDUM are used only for file purposes, and not for communications.
9. The memos use the formulation " accordance with (IAW)..." The abbreviation IAW is a universal abbreviation in the USAF, hence it is not spelled out, rather it is used for no other reason than to eliminate the word "in accordance with" from official communications. There are several such universal abbreviation, such as NLT for "no later than".
10. The title of one of the memos is CYA, a popular euphemism for covering one's...ahem...posterior. It is doubtful that any serving officer would use such a colloquialism in any document that might come under official scrutiny.

Personal Arguments

1. The records purport to be from Lt Col Killian's "personal files", yet, they were not obtained from his family, but through some unknown 3rd party. It is an odd kind of "personal file" when the family of a deceased person is unaware of the file's existence and it is not in their possession.
2. Both Lt Col Killian's wife and son, as well as the EAFB personnel officer do not find the memos credible.
3. Keeping such derogatory personal memos , while at the same time, writing glowing OERs for Mr. Bush would be unwise for any officer. At best, it would raise serious questions about why his private judgments differed so radically from his official ones, should they ever come to light. At worst, they would raise questions about whether Lt Col Killian falsified official documents. As Lt Col Killian's son, himself a retired USAF officer, has said, nothing good can come of keeping such files.
4. Both Lt Col Killian's wife and son relate that Killian wasn't a typist. If he needed anotes, he would write them down longhand, but in general, he wasn't paper-oriented, and certainly wasn't a typist.
And what do we get from Dan Rather? This, according to Wizbang:
Dan Rather came out swinging tonight but so far he was just shadow boxing. To defend his story, he made 4 arguments.

#1) You could find th's in other documents. Fair enough. (or not, see 'more' below.) What about the other 300 anomalies Dan? [See QandO's list, above: ED}

#2) We learned the name of their forensics guy... (I'll save you the trouble and set up the search) Marcel Manley

My mini google tells me the guy is not that impressive. He has a few self-published books that I found. Mostly he is a "handwriting expert," he has no apparent skills at looking at the rest of the document. Certainly not the resume' that Bill at INDC Journal's guy had. (He also seems more at home with the legalities of being an expert witness than being a forensics guy.)

I also found he apparently is behind the story that Kurt Cobain's suicide note was bogus and he was really murdered. I'm speaking before I google enough but the guy seems like wingnut. (more later) Update: The guy who wrote the web page was a wingnut. No reflection on Matley.

Anyway the Forensics guy said (in a nut shell) that since the signatures match (which they don't to my layman's eye) the whole document is legit. Because obviously nobody would scan a signature and paste it into Word... No, never.

Prediction: CBS is going to get nailed on this guy... wait for it.

#3) Some guy -name not important -- that said the documents were legitimate because everyone knew Bush sucked. (no joke)

#4) Some other guy -- who has written multiple books bashing Bush- said the documents were legitimate because everyone knew Bush sucked. (No, I'm not making this up.)

Then Dan Rather said that we know the documents are real because well -- Bush sucked. (Update 4)

Basically, CBS is making the case that since the content of the documents is true, the documents are legit. And we know the content is true because we have these documents to prove it. (an odd form of recursion)

The other humorous bit of defense is when Rather made the case that the blogosphere is way off base because the copies we got have been copied, faxed and recopied and some of them have been (gasp) downloaded. Completely ignoring that we all got the doc right from their web site. We are looking at a scan of what they have. 1 scan does not lose that much quality. All in all, that line was just laughable.

More as I google.

One more comment - To distill the above, their whole argument was that the signatures matched. The rest was fluff. [emphasis mine: ED]

UPDATE: hmmm This is interesting... Seems Matley vouched for the authenticity of the Vince Foster suicide note.

UPDATE 2: ZERO (none, nada, zip) evidence this guy was in any way qualified to vouch for the authenticity of these documents. NONE. He is a handwriting guy who makes the case the signatures match. (they can be scanned) His only claim to fame is that he is a librarian. Google can find nothing this guy has ever done with anything other than handwriting. Bill at INDC spanked CBS.

Bottom line... CBS's document expert ain't.

UPDATE 3: I forgot to note that the defense of the documents came after Rather bashed Bush for a while... I know you're surprised.

UPDATE 4: I kinda made a joke about everyone saying "Bush sucked" but from an evidentiary point of view that is what they offered. They said the documents must be legit because everyone knew this is what happened. Since the contents were true, the docs were, by definition, not forgeries. It really was rather odd. (oh heck, that pun wasn't intended but I'll take it) Only the mentally lame will accept this argument....
Clearly, Rather is one of the mentally lame. He came nowhere near addressing all the charges. He'd be found guilty of flagrant violation of journalistic standards, if there were such a thing.