Game Over, Man

I have to agree with Allah on this one, the latest expert to come forward, digital typography pioneer Joseph M. Newcomer pretty much drives a stake through the heart of the idea that these documents are anything other than crude forgeries:

I am one of the pioneers of electronic typesetting. I was doing work with computer typesetting technology in 1972 (it actually started in late 1969), and I personally created one of the earliest typesetting programs for what later became laser printers, but in 1970 when this work was first done, lasers were not part of the electronic printer technology (my way of expressing this is “I was working with laser printers before they had lasers”, which is only a mild stretch of the truth). We published a paper about our work (graphics, printer hardware, printer software, and typesetting) in one of the important professional journals of the time (D.R. Reddy, W. Broadley, L.D. Erman, R. Johnsson, J. Newcomer, G. Robertson, and J. Wright, “XCRIBL: A Hardcopy Scan Line Graphics System for Document Generation,” Information Processing Letters (1972, pp.246-251)). I have been involved in many aspects of computer typography, including computer music typesetting (1987-1990). I have personally created computer fonts, and helped create programs that created computer fonts. At one time in my life, I was a certified Adobe PostScript developer, and could make laser printers practically stand up and tap dance. I have written about Microsoft Windows font technology in a book I co-authored, and taught courses in it. I therefore assert that I am a qualified expert in computer typography.

The probability that any technology in existence in 1972 would be capable of producing a document that is nearly pixel-compatible with Microsoft’s Times New Roman font and the formatting of Microsoft Word, and that such technology was in casual use at the Texas Air National Guard, is so vanishingly small as to be indistinguishable from zero.

His lengthy technical analysis would be enough that any lawyer would be willing to take this case to court – then again, such flimsy evidence would never be allowed in a courtroom based on CBS’ unwillingness to provide real authentication for the documents.

At this point, there is no rational basis for believing in the authenticity of these documents. The massive preponderance of evidence shows that they are fakes. Those who worked with the Texas Air National Guard at the time and Killian’s family all say they are faked. A nearly identical memo can be produced in Word, and if one were to copy and fax it over several generations, you’d get something that would be indistinguishable from the memos.

Those who defend these memos show only that their hatred of Bush has overwhelmed any sense of judgement or common sense.

UPDATE: For those who still can’t get it through their heads that these memos were not produced on a 1972-era typewriter, here’s Charles Johnson’s animation of the original memo and a copy of it made in Word using the default settings:

Rathergate forgery unveiled

The only reason the letters appear distorted is because the repeated copying/faxing of the memo has distorted some elements of the letters and the copy that was released was tilted at an angle (another sign of forgery – tilting the paper makes it harder to do an analysis of the typography). Furthermore, the argument that the baselines of the letters are different is due mainly to the poor quality of CBS’ PDF copies, and not creation on a typewriter. Even if the baselines are slightly different, it does not prove that the document was typewritten, just distorted. Newcomer’s analysis shows conclusively that the font in these documents was not the font used by the Selectric line of typewriters. In fact, taking a real Selectric and comparing its output to the document produces this:

CBS memo/Selectric Comparison

Even at a small size, it is clear that the letter spacing is completely different between a Selectric typewriter and the original memos. (Larger versions and more information can be found at Shape of Days who did the original comparisons.)

And if Newcomer isn’t credible enough, how about other forensic document examiners like Dr. Phillip Bouffard (whose analysis was deliberately and maliciously misconstrued by the Boston Globe)? How about William Flynn? Sandra Ramsey Lines?

At this point, those still flogging these memos as being original are doing so based on nothing but a stubborn and irrational partisanship. All forensic evidence concludes that these memos are modern forgeries created in Microsoft Word and not typewritten documents created in the 1970s. When even the rest of the media thinks CBS is nuts for continuing to stand by these hoaxes, it’s time to simply face reality.

10 thoughts on “Game Over, Man

  1. A:) The letters are not floating.

    B:) The document was faxed, and fax machines produce the same kind of distortions on serifs and descenders that we see in the CBS memo.

  2. Still nothing has been said to rebut the experts that are siding against the authenticity of these documents, the credibility of Killian’s family (who states he didn’t write things like this), Ben Barnes’ contribution the CBS news story, and the time-related inconsistancies present in the memos. For CBS to right and the blogs wrong, every one of these issues must be addressed.

    If I were a juror in the trial of the 60 minutes’ malpractice trial, I’d convict.

    From Bush’s point of view, every allogation that has surfaced in the CBS report, disputed or not, needs to be addressed. And it probably would be a good idea to address them before the debates.

    Kerry has addressed the swiftvet issues, Bush needs to address these. Look here for summary of swiftvet rebuttal.

  3. Raised 8 issue aside, the centered heading issue has only been address in the previously posted summary above. I’ll post the exert on it below. Sorry in advance for spamming…
    Exert from:

    “This point was so important to Gerry that he went out of his way to mention it to me again later in the day: centering type is hard on the Selectric Composer. Two of the memos, May 4 and August 1, 1972, feature a three-line centered head. Each of those lines of type had to be centered by measuring it carefully, doing some math, then advancing the carrier to just the right point on the page. The margin for error would be pretty wide because type can be off by a few points in either direction and still look pretty well centered. It wouldn’t be objectionable unless you went looking for it. So it wasn’t necessary for Lt. Col. Killian — or his typist — to be millimeter-precise.

    And yet … he was.

    Two letterheads typed three months apart can be superimposed on each other so perfectly that no difference at all can be seen. It’s the same deal as before: the red in front was superimposed over the black behind it. You just can’t see the black copy because the red copy is perfectly aligned with it. These letterheads weren’t centered to within a couple of points of each other. They were centered exactly the same. Three months apart.”

    End Exert. I had to manually type the link to the picture.

    Another convicing argument from that site occured when they discussed what it would take to achieve the superscript.

    “To make the superscripted th, I first typed “111”, then switched the font to the 8pt font, switched the escapement lever to the smaller escapement (horizontal movement), reverse indexed the paper 1/2 line up, typed the “th”, indexed 1/2 line down, switched the escapement lever to the wider escapement, then changed the type ball back to the 11pt font. On other tries, I was able to produce the superscripted th much cleaner (where it looked proper), but on the one I sent you, the carrier slipped forward a little bit when I switched the escapement lever to and from the smaller spacing.”

    End Exert. The original quote was from Gerry, the guy who runs

    Ideally, Killian would have a secretary do this for him, since we have reports from his family saying Mr. Killian was not a typist himself. But all this work for a personal memo that is only meant for his personal records? Unlikely. It would be easier to hand write such a link or use a regular typewritter. Why go through all that work? Not to mention the eventual errors such a transition occasionally cause.

  4. Sav: Surely you can name some of them then.

    Ah, very good, I know I should have found the link before I posted. Truth is, I first heard about experts that are claiming it is fake while listening to drive-time conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt (hey, at least he was talking about it). He had on two typeface experts that said they were suspending their final judgement, but at the moment they believe the documents to be fake. I forgot the names of the experts so I went back to his site to find em. I found three names: Dr. Cartwright at Rice, Farrel Shiver, and Dr. Bouffard. On his site he made some reference about Dr. Bouffard being misquoted by Globe which apparent said that he reversed his position. Though I realize this source isn’t exactly objective, due to the pundit’s political leaning, he stated that Dr. Bouffard told him that “he and his colleagues are becoming more certain that these documents are forgeries.” (Sourced above)

    But I know that’s not going to be enough, Hugh’s got something to gain here. So I searched for other sources to collaborate the story. It was pretty difficult to find links that we’re already on a few of the blogs out there, but I found a few href=””>here. Another news organzation asking more experts here. Finally, my past roundup of issues on the Ben Barnes issue in the comments of this post.

    In this discussion we should also note that the expert CBS used, Marcel Matley, is not a document expert but a handwritting expert. We should only invoke his credibility for the signitures on the document. With this revelation we see that CBS did not get a professional opinion on the credibility of the typed documents, only their signatures.

    I’m sure I missed some points, but please I have to work sometime. Damn you all for getting me addicted to this stuff. No that’s not fair, I’m the one typeing.

  5. Yes, and is she a forensic document analyst? How many court cases has she testified in?

    In fact, from what I’ve read, she’s just another blogger. Hell, for all we know she could be a 16 year-old goth kid. There’s a big difference between a credible source and some random schlub – and a viscerally pro-Kerry schlub at that.

  6. Two retired FBI forensic document examiners who studied the memos at USA TODAY’s request said Sunday that they probably are forgeries.

    Independent document examiner Sandra Ramsey Lines said the memos looked like they had been produced on a computer using Microsoft Word software.

    There are more, but as of now the score seems to be 7-1.

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