Why these charges of forgery aren’t run-of-the-mill conspiracy theory

I noticed this referral in my logs: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&q=faked+bush+guard+documents. I couldn’t beleive that my previous post had already registered on Google and was ranked high enough to bring someone in on this hot subject, so I checked the link myself. In fact, it points to a post on the “Bush was AWOL” story from February.

Anyway, a commenter on that post had this to say:

Does anyone believe that documents cannot be faked? I suppose we don’t have much choice but to trust the original source documents, but when they appear a few years after all relevant documents are requested, and then they seem to provide key exculpatory evidence, it does not inspire confidence.

And in a follow up comment the same writer said:

Certainly any “document” is suspect these days. I have no reason to believe Moore over Bush or vice-versa. I did not state or suggest that I would (or wouldn’t or whatever). I have often expressed that “they all do it”. Many people think that just the other side does it. It is unfortunate that we can’t trust the “press” to present what is as close to the unvarnished facts anymore to let people make up their own minds. It seems that many people are unwilling to see the difference between “It matches my thoughts so it must be true” and “It seems plausible, comes from a reputable source, is corroborated so I will take it as a reasonable possibility.” Dialogue seems to be near-dead and fairness isn’t seen too often either.

Interestingly, these words seem to have a lot of meaning in today’s debate, that over the authenticity of the documents rolled out by CBS News.

The charges of “forgery” MIGHT be no more than right-wing conspiracy theory. It appears that the story originated on the Free Republic forum, which is home to many card-carrying members of the VRWC, and it seemed to grow on predominantly-Conservative blogs and news sites.

Two things differentiate this plot from your garden-variety conspiracy theory about Bush’s Air National Guard service, though:

A) The Mainstream Media (whatever that really means) carried the story of the documents in a Big Way. They broke it. They put it front and center on a major news program. Other Mainstream Media organizations gave the story major coverage the next day, far above and beyond the coverage that the Swift Boat Vets story EVER received. It was Big News, not some crackpot “story” on www.bushcankissmyass.com, Democratic Underground, a Michael Moore film, or some other questionable source that played it up. This isn’t crackpot theory vs. crackpot theory. This is fact-checking a major news organization.

B) The ability to prove or disprove the authenticity of the documents as questioned now (formatting) should be easily obtained. If the line justification, the font used, the character kerning, the superscripted ‘th’, the proportional spacing, etc., were in fact common in this sort of document in 1973, all that forgery-deniers need to do is produce some of them for our viewing pleasure. The entire forgery charge rests upon these simple formatting issues. If those issues don’t hold water, the charge falls apart.

We don’t necessarily have to “trust the original source documents” as noted in the first comment from February because these charges of forgery are plain and simple. They are easy to understand. They can be discussed in a meaningful way by laymen.

This isn’t like claims that Nick Berg wasn’t held by Islamic terrorists because he was wearing orange coveralls or that it wasn’t really a 767 that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11 because of the size of the hole. The evidence to debunk the forgery theory advocates, if it exists, should be accessible very easily, and the answer should not only be plain to document experts and forensic investigators, but to almost anyone who looks at it. If two dozen NTSB investigators tell us that it was indeed a 767 that crashed into the Pentagon, we’re still left taking it on faith. If you and I look at two documents and can plainly see the differences (or the similarities) in the format we will be more certain about it in our own minds and hearts.

In fact, that’s why I’m skeptical that this is indeed some nefarious plot by one campaign or the other. If these are forgeries, which I’m figuring they are since proving they aren’t would be quite simple, the forger was an idiot. (And not because he doesn’t like Mrs. Kerry’s health plan.) Unless stacks of similarly-formatted documents turn up, this will be so easily proven to be a hoax that no serious political campaigner would have tried it.

They DO “all do it” as stated above. But no one is this sloppy about it, are they?

And if the forgery charges hold up, “we can’t trust the “press” to present what is as close to the unvarnished facts”. At least not certain segments of the press. I agree that this is unfortunate.

UPDATE: I wrote this before my daily lunch-time routine of checking the ol’ blogosphere. Check out Donald Sensing, who has long covered the “Bush was AWOL” story:

These documents are so transparently faked, and hence so transparently a measure of the Dems’ desperation, that from now on nothing they say about Bush’s service will be believed. Nor should it.

Strong words, but that will likely be the result if these are indeed fakes. He’s also got a long list of stories about the authenticity of the memos in “reputable” news outlets. This is not, repeat: not, a conspiracy theory. It might not be accurate, but the forgery story is getting big time attention. Because the little guys pointed it out and had the goods to back it up.

I find all of this simply stunning.

UPDATE 2: CBS busted again. I thought the reason “real” media was superior to the internet little guys was due to the editorial oversight the big boys have. Sheesh.

UPDATE 3: It’s getting hard to keep up. Now Dan Rather tells CNN:

I know that this story is true. I believe that the witnesses and the documents are authentic. We wouldn’t have gone to air if they would not have been. There isn’t going to be… there’s no… what you’re saying apology?

He seems to think that the authenticity of the documents isn’t even relevant to the question “do these documents prove that George Bush didn’t fulfill his commitments?” Is he melting down?

As a commenter on Wizbang writes: What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

(I wish I had thought of that.)

UPDATE 4: Terry McAuliffe says Karl Rove may have leaked the documents. That happened a lot faster than I thought it would.

UPDATE 5: From Registered Media:
(Via FR)

UPDATE 6: Yahoo News has a statement from CBS News:

NEW YORK, Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ — Later today, CBS News will address on the air and in detail the issues surrounding the documents broadcast in the 60 MINUTES report on President Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard. At this time, however, CBS News states with absolute certainty that the ability to produce the “th” superscript mentioned in reports about the documents did exist on typewriters as early as 1968, and in fact is in President Bush’s official military records released by the White House. This and other issues surrounding the authenticity of the documents and more on this developing story will be reported on tonight on THE CBS EVENING NEWS WITH DAN RATHER.

Actually, the superscripted “th” is only one of many problems with these memos. Never mind that most forgery-claimers aren’t saying it was impossible to do these things in 1973, just that is seems incredibly unlikely that a Texas Air National Guard base office would have access to the advanced equipment needed or make use of it for what are routine memos.

However, if they can produce a lot of documents exhibiting these characteristics whose origins aren’t in dispute, that will basically shoot down the forgery theory. We’ll see.

UPDATE 7: Donald Sensing points out one of the machines that was available in 1973 that could do SOME of the fancy formatting that word processors today take for granted. Yes, the same fancy formatting that has everyone’s panties in a bunch since it’s present in the Bush TANG memos.

The machine he points out is the IBM Selectric Composer. But it can only do the fancy formatting IF YOU TYPE EVERY LINE TWICE. Remember, despite their apparent importance today, these memos are bottom-level routine documents. It doesn’t seem likely that the TANG would use these machines, even if it had them, for this sort of work. Granted, this isn’t the only machine that was avalable back then capable of fancy tricks. But if Dan Rather says “IBM Selectric Composer” tonight, it’s going to be shaky at best.

All of this supposing and speculation isn’t going to answer any questions. Let’s see more memos from there from then with the same formatting. If there are a ton of them, it will of course still leave other questions to be answered. But I will move back to the skeptical side of this debate.

Until then, I’m pretty sure these are fakes.


  1. But if Dan Rather says ‘IBM Selectric Composer’ tonight, it’s going to be shaky at best.’ Especially since you can get an EXACT (not close, exact) copy of at least one of the memos by typing it in to Microsoft Word using the default settings. I tried it and its exactly the same. Full disclosure: I’m a Kerry supporter and I still think these memos are absolutely fake. I doubt anyone at DNC of in the Kerry campaign faked them though (although maybe they passed them along to CBS without knowing they were fake). I also think its ridiculous to believe that anyone on the Bush side had anything to do with it. I think Karl Rove is a huge jerk, but a stunt like that could totally backfire — not his style.

  2. One more thing, both Killian’s son and widow as well as his former subordinates claim that Killian cannot type. He writes all of his memo long hand and hand it to some clerk to transcribe. If that’s the case, the clerk’s identification would be on the memo.

  3. First let me state that I am not an expert in:Type,Typewriters,Word proscessors or Computers. However I try to look at things logically.CBS (Rather)has stated that the TYPE format used and the superscript(th)were available in the early 1970’s.FINE. Please note that nothing was stated regarding the Proportional Formatting of letters and sentences.As far as I know these are modern technologies that were not available back then. Let’s have a debate of true experts and let the chip’s do there thing