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Archive for September 17th, 2004

Warp Speed Debunking

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Interesting timeline of the debunking of the Bush guard docs in this week’s New York Observer. A piece by Robert Sam Anson. (Read it while it lasts on the site…)
Anyway, here’s the relevant section, “filched,” as Anson says, “from ABC’s “The Note” and the Los Angeles Times”:

At 8 p.m. last Wednesday, 60 Minutes broadcast Mr. Rather’s report, which centered on ex–Texas House Speaker and Democratic power Ben Barnes describing how he’d greased Mr. Bush’s way into the Guard (putting the lie to the longstanding claim that Dubya had made it on his own hook), and now felt bad on account. Mr. Barnes’ assistance wasn’t exactly a scoop, though that’s how Mr. Rather advertised it; in 1999, he’d told essentially the same story to the Dallas Morning News. All that was new was being on camera. Sandwiched between his recollections and White House communications director Dan Bartlett kicking them as “dirty politics,” the documents appeared, accompanied by Mr. Rather saying they’d been verified by “a handwriting analyst and document expert.” To bolster credence, there was an interview with a Texas Air Guard officer and friend of Killian’s, Robert Strong, who said the papers were “compatible” with the fella he remembered Jerry Killian being.
Not the most ringing testimony. Nor was the word of a single, unidentified, off-camera “expert” exactly open-and-shut proof. But Mr. Barnes was emphatic and—better yet—truthful. And Ben Barnes, Dan Rather said, was what the story was all about.
That’s not how it worked out.
Mr. Rather’s report hadn’t been over 10 minutes when a post appeared on the right-wing Web site from “TankerKC,” saying the documents were “not in the style that we used when I came into the USAF … can we get a copy of those memos?”
Three hours and a little later, fat met fire with another FreeRepublic posting, this one from a blogger named “Buckhead.” He (or she—Buckhead won’t reveal his identity outside cyberspace) wrote:
Every single one of these memos to file is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman. In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing, and typewriters used monospaced fonts. The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers. They were not widespread until the mid to late 90’s. Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn’t used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang systems that were dominant in the mid 80’s used monospaced fonts. I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old …. This should be pursued aggressively.
Here the plot starts a-thickening.
First (leaving aside how suspiciously well Buckhead puts sentences together for a righty blogger), there’s the extraordinary, yeah, boggling, knowledge of typewriting arcana. More remarkable still are the circumstances under which discernment occurred. Namely, viewing the document on a TV screen from a presumed distance of six to a dozen feet. Folks who make their living at this sort of thing rely on magnifying glasses, if not microscopes. And they don’t venture opinions unless the document’s in their puss.
Then there’s the warp speed with which Buckhead discerned monkey business. The last big document mess was the trove that conned Seymour Hersh into believing Jack Kennedy signed a contract with Marilyn Monroe agreeing to pay a hundred grand in consideration of her shutting up about their adventures between the sheets, as well as his pillow talk of owing the 1960 election to the good offices of Chicago mob boss Sam (Momo) Giancana. Their exposure (in which your correspondent had a walk-on) took weeks. And those documents were nutso on their face.

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September 17, 2004 at 12:35 am

Posted in Politics