Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Wow. This is getting even more fascinating. Originally, I didn't think this story had enough oomph to really keep me interested, but I am becoming a little obsessed. There is no way I can keep up with Rather Biased, Power Line, Instapundit, Ace, and Allah, but I will offer a little bit of a roundup here.

I predicted a couple days ago that this would be a short-lived embarrasment for CBS that would be politely ignored by the rest of the MSM. It would end up providing some satisfaction as a clear victory for the blogosphere, but would ultimately prove frustrating because nothing would really change. Now, I'm not so sure. The factor I never counted on was Rather's ego. Instead of admitting a mistake and blaming the forger, he surprised me on Friday by trying to defend this indefensible report. This was met with much fisking and ridicule. But then, he floored me by digging even deeper on Monday. This is really swinging from incompetence, straight into bald-faced lying. Does he think we are that stupid? Does he think he has any escape hatch left? It is -- what's the phrase? -- gob-smackingly vile. This pathetic assault on truth may well cost him his job.

So, on to a few of the most interesting links I have. Dr. Newcomer has the single most devastating analysis of the memos. He has a PhD in computer science, spent his career in typography, wrote early typesetting software, published academic papers, taught classes, and wrote textbooks on typography and typesetting. He knows of what he speaks, and he says he is 100% sure that the documents are fake. If you prefer nuts and bolts, Rather Biased is kind of HQ right now. They have a point-by-point fisking that includes this gem: "I have never in my life seen a more one-sided piece, in the history--in the history, of television. ... It was absolutely disgraceful."

After denigrating bloggers as just "a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas," CBS has now culled a Bill Glennon out of the Daily Kos' comment section to try to cover their tails. Mr. Glennon "believes that they [the memos] could have been created using the kind of typewriters he worked with at I.B.M. [in 1972]." But when Glennon spoke to the WaPo: "Glennon said he is not a document expert, could not vouch for the memos' authenticity and only examined them online because CBS did not give him copies when asked to visit the network's offices. " That's the best CBS can do? Anyway, my new hero is so sure these are fakes that he has put together a $38,000 bounty out for anyone who can recreate the Killian memos on 1972 machines. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is! Obviously, no one has collected.

The MSM has attempted to play nice with Dan, and part of the Fourth Column is still in the tank for Kerry. But in this case they can only bend backwards so far, and then they start producing stories like this one. For the stately WaPo, this counts as a serious bitch-slap. They have CBS's document "expert" saying "There's no way that I, as a document expert, can authenticate them." Seriously. And then the WaPo goes on to do Rather's job for him:
A detailed comparison by The Washington Post of memos obtained by CBS News with authenticated documents on Bush's National Guard service reveals dozens of inconsistencies, ranging from conflicting military terminology to different word-processing techniques. [...]
• Word-processing techniques. 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."
In a CBS News broadcast Friday night rebutting allegations that the documents had been forged, Rather displayed an authenticated Bush document from 1968 that included a small "th" next to the numbers "111" as proof that Guard typewriters were capable of producing superscripts. In fact, say Newcomer and other experts, the document aired by CBS News does not contain a superscript, because the top of the "th" character is at the same level as the rest of the type. Superscripts rise above the level of the type.
• Factual problems. A CBS document purportedly from Killian ordering Bush to report for his annual physical, dated May 4, 1972, gives Bush's address as "5000 Longmont #8, Houston." This address was used for many years by Bush's father, George H.W. Bush. National Guard documents suggest that the younger Bush stopped using that address in 1970 when he moved into an apartment, and did not use it again until late 1973 or 1974, when he moved to Cambridge, Mass., to attend Harvard Business School.
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. Questioned about the discrepancy over the weekend, CBS officials said that Staudt was a "mythic figure" in the Guard who exercised influence from behind the scenes even after his retirement.
• Stylistic differences. To outsiders, how an officer wrote his name and rank or referred to his military unit may seem arcane and unimportant. Within the military, however, such details are regulated by rules and tradition, and can be of great significance. The CBS memos contain several stylistic examples at odds with standard Guard procedures, as reflected in authenticated documents.
In memos previously released by the Pentagon or the White House, Killian signed his rank "Lt Col" or "Lt Colonel, TexANG," in a single line after his name without periods. In the CBS memos, the "Lt Colonel" is on the next line, sometimes with a period but without the customary reference to TexANG, for Texas Air National Guard.
An ex-Guard commander, retired Col. Bobby W. Hodges, whom CBS originally cited as a key source in authenticating its documents, pointed to discrepancies in military abbreviations as evidence that the CBS memos are forgeries. The Guard, he said, never used the abbreviation "grp" for "group" or "OETR" for an officer evaluation review, as in the CBS documents. The correct terminology, he said, is "gp" and "OER."

Now the suits at CBS are getting nervous.
On Friday, according to CBS News sources, Rather spent the day on the phone and dealing with CBS suits who were nervous about the fall out from the story. "All Dan could say was that this was an attack from the right-wing nuts, and that we should have expected this, given the stakes," says a CBS News producer. "He was terribly defensive and nervous. You could tell." [...] "We do not have the originals, and our sources have indicated to us that we will not be getting the originals. How that is possible I don't know."

The NYT shows a similar picture:
"Even inside CBS News there was deepening concern. Some of Mr. Rather's colleagues said in interviews that they were becoming increasingly anxious for him to silence the critics by proving the documents' validity and as new questions about their origin arose. Most declined to be quoted by name."

And now it turns out that CBS's original expert is a bit of a kook.
Analyst Marcel Matley lists "Spirituality in Handwriting" and "Female/Male Traits in Handwriting" on the Web site. ... In "Spirituality in Handwriting," Matley assesses a woman's "libidinal energy" based on her handwriting.
In addition, in a 1995 California court deposition obtained by The Post, Matley acknowledged that he had no formal training in a document lab, in identification of papers, inks or "machines, typewriters, photocopies." He also acknowledged he'd had no training from the U.S. Secret Service, FBI, U.S. Army, California Department of Justice or any other law-enforcement body.

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