Memogate Recap: Breaking Down The Evidence

Of course, there has been an enormous amount of chatter about the forged memos Dan Rather is trying to pass off as real, not only in the blogosphere, but in the mainstream press. In fact, there has been so much discussion of this subject, with so many people trying to come up with unique angles on the story, that my guess is that a lot of people are probably getting confused. Most people seem to believe they’re forgeries, but some people say they’re real, then there are all of these sources who’re changing their stories, and you have words like “kerning” and “proportional spacing” getting tossed around that 99% of the general public is unfamiliar with….it’s confusing.

Therefore, I thought it might be useful just to streamline the argument a bit and break it down so that it’s easy to understand why so many of us in the blogosphere are absolutely convinced that these documents are forgeries.

1) The documents, which were supposedly written 30 years ago, match up EXACTLY with the default settings of Microsoft Word.

I cannot stress to you how unlikely it is that someone using a 30 year old typewriter, by chance, punched up documents that match the font, spacing, line breaks, etc, of a program that most of the people reading this post now have on their own computers. It’s like someone claiming that they found a 50 year old Coke can that is an exact duplicate of a can you can buy on the shelf today. Maybe it was technologically possible or maybe it wasn’t, but in either case, it would be extraordinarily unlikely that someone made something like that back then.

Even if you just considered this factor and NOTHING else, your level of skepticism about the legitimacy of these memos should be VERY HIGH.

2) There are also legions of very credible “experts” coming out of the woodwork to declare that these memos don’t appear to be legitimate. There are literally dozens of examples I could cite, but here are just a few to give you a feel for what the experts are saying…

“At the heart of the dispute is whether any typewriter existed in 1972 that could have produced the documents, with their distinct type style, even spacing, and the tiny raised “th” known as superscript.

Two experts told ABC News today there was no such machine, not even the IBM Selectric Composer, the most advanced typewriter available in 1972.

“This machine is not the culprit for these documents,” said software engineer Gerry Kaplan.”

“I am personally 100 percent sure that they are fake,” said Joseph M. Newcomer, author of several books on Windows programming, who worked on electronic typesetting techniques in the early 1970s. Newcomer said he had produced virtually exact replicas of the CBS documents using Microsoft Word formatting and the Times New Roman font.

Newcomer drew an analogy with an art expert trying to determine whether a painting of unknown provenance was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. “If I was looking for a Da Vinci, I would look for characteristic brush strokes,” he said. “If I found something that was painted with a modern synthetic brush, I would know that I have a forgery.”

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.”

— I find this one to be particularly devastating since CBS actually HIRED THIS WOMAN to check the documents. Moreover, I have a lot of difficulty understanding why in the world CBS would have even run the story given what she told them…

“Emily Will, a veteran document examiner from North Carolina, told ABC News she saw problems right away with the one document CBS hired her to check the weekend before the broadcast.

“I found five significant differences in the questioned handwriting, and I found problems with the printing itself as to whether it could have been produced by a typewriter,” she said.

Will says she sent the CBS producer an e-mail message about her concerns and strongly urged the network the night before the broadcast not to use the documents.

“I told them that all the questions I was asking them on Tuesday night, they were going to be asked by hundreds of other document examiners on Thursday if they ran that story,” Will said.”

Now if you simply take into account that these memos match up with Microsoft word and the expert testimony you’ve just read, I think any reasonable person would be HIGHLY SKEPTICAL of the validity of these documents. But wait, there’s more…

3) Even if these documents had been actually typed on a typewriter that had been around in the 1970s instead of in Microsoft Word, this one discrepancy alone should have thrown up a huge red flag…

“One CBS memo cites pressure allegedly being put on Killian by “Staudt,” a reference to Col. Walter B. “Buck” Staudt, one of Bush’s early commanders. But the memo is dated Aug. 18, 1973, nearly a year and a half after Staudt retired from the Guard.”

Common sense tells you that a guy who retired a year and half before this memo was written wasn’t going to be in a position to pressure anyone. Again, this should have raised a lot of questions about these memos at CBS — if they even caught the forger’s error.

Now, if you simply consider these three things, you’ve got to know that there’s almost no chance that these documents are real. Moreover, while there are quite a few other details that undermine the authenticity of the memos, here are another couple that I think are particularly poignant…

“The son of President Bush’s former squadron commander,…Gary Killian said Thursday that he doesn’t believe the newly discovered documents are legitimate.

Killian said his father, who died in 1984, could barely type and usually assigned typing duties to a secretary.

…Killian said his father did not maintain an office at home and had no secret file there where such documents would have been stored.

…Killian said his father “thought well” of Bush’s abilities as an Air National Guard pilot assigned to fly the F-102.”

“Of more than 100 records made available by the 147th Group and the Texas Air National Guard, none used the proportional spacing techniques characteristic of the CBS documents. Nor did they use a superscripted “th” in expressions such as “147th Group” and or “111th Fighter Intercept Squadron.”

So let’s put it all together.

We have copies of memos, not the originals, that were provided to CBS by an anonymous source. The documents, which are supposed to be more than 30 years old, appear to have been written by someone using Microsoft Word. There are plenty of top experts in the field saying the documents are fake. No other documents from that era, in that National Guard unit, seem to be written in the same style as these documents. The son of the man who supposedly wrote the documents thinks they’re a forgery, says his father could hardly type, and did not maintain an office at home where these documents would have been stored (which of course makes you wonder where the anonymous source told CBS the documents came from). On top of that, one of the memos makes reference to pressure being put on the writer of the memo by a man who retired a year and a half earlier.

Given all of this, I’m not sure what CBS could even do at this point to prove that the memos were genuine. Maybe if they had a high quality videotape that actually showed Killian typing the memos on some sort of experimental typewriter and you could actually see the words as they were being typed, that might be enough. But, it would actually take something like that to do it.

So if CBS has some sort of smoking gun that they haven’t released yet, now is definitely the time to do it. If not, they should come clean, admit the documents are frauds, and reveal where they came from. To try to hold out when even other mainstream media outlets are now openly pointing out that the memos are not just forgeries, but crude forgeries, is just delaying the inevitable.

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