Friday, October 01, 2004

CBS lacky helps prove fraud

David E. Hailey, a professor at Utah State University has answered two of the most troublesome questions about the CBS forgeries: "How could the forger be that stupid?" and "Why do some of the characters look different from Times Roman?" (link from Wisbang). The first question has been answered inadequately by just assuming that the forger was too young to know how recent laser printers are or just doesn't remember how different typewritten documents look.

Neither answer is entirely satisfactory, given that the forger did make some effort to have dates on the forged documents match with the dates in known real documents. The date matching took some research and forethought, enough to make me wonder how he could have overlooked the obvious problem of the font.

Now we know that he did think about the font. Hailey argues that the font used in the memos is not Times New Roman, it is a font called Typewriter. He shows how this font matches the CBS memos more closely than the Times New Roman font that is the default in Word.

If Hailey is correct, then the forger did go to the trouble of finding and installing a font that said "typewriter". Now, we only have to explain how he could have missed the fact that his typewriter font is proportional so its output still doesn't look like it was produced by a typewriter.

That doesn't seem so mysterious to me. I myself don't easily recognize the difference between proportional fonts and fixed-size. I have too look for narrow and wide characters like "i" and "w" and compare the width. Someone who doesn't know anything about fonts might not even know that such a difference existed, so he wouldn't think to check it.

I also remember one time selecting "Typewriter" from a font dialog box with the intention of getting a fixed-width font so letters would line up down the columns. I was surprised to find that the letters didn't line up --they weren't fixed-width. But they did look a bit like typewriter characters.

Hailey's theory also helps to answer the question of why some of the characters look consistently different from the Times New Roman fonts. I did some experiments that proved to me that you could get consistent differences by photocopying (I had to enlarge and shrink to get really striking results). But Hailey's solution is much more satisfactory.

Hailey also argues that there are signs that the documents were mechanically typed based on wear patterns of the letters. However, the kinds of changes he noted are just the kind I was able to reproduce by photocopying. To prove his thesis, it isn't enough to show that those wear patterns are explainable by typewriter wear, he has to show that they are not explainable as artifacts of photocopying, and he doesn't do that. The reason for this high standard of proof is that it is apparent that photocopying was used to deliberately obscure the documents.

Another reason that Hailey's arguments on the wear aren't very convincing is that they are based partly on his own subjective judgment, and he shows in that very paper that we cannot trust his objectivity. In a section entitled "Conclusions About CBS Role" he writes
There is no good way for proving the documents in question are authentic. If I were in the Texas Air National Guard, and I said, "I saw the documents in Col. Killian’s cabinet," who would believe me? The answer to that question depends entirely on the political point of view of my audience.
I don't think this is true at all. An eye witness who didn't have a history of anti-Bush or Democratic party activism would seem very credible to me. And I expect most Bush supporters would feel the same way. It wouldn't be conclusive of course, but it would be persuasive. And if they found the actual secret files with other memos written the same way, that would be pretty conclusive (pending examination).
Hailey also writes
It is possible however to infer from physical evidence that CBS (and Mr. Rather and his producers) justifiably believed the documents to be authentic. Given enough time and concentration, any competent "expert" would have concluded that they are typed in a font commonly used in the military at the time. There is currently outside evidence indicating that the documents are inauthentic, but none of it exists in the mechanics of documents themselves. They are completely in keeping with typewritten documents of the period in question – early 1970s. Whatever the outcome of this kafuffle, I am convinced that in the end, it will be generally recognized that the documents CBS released to the public were typed – probably on an old, military typewriter.
Hailey seems to be arguing that since it would have been possible for Rather to have eventually found an expert who would have said the documents might be authentic, that they justifiably believed the documents were authentic. One would like to think that this isn't his intended point. CBS had no evidence whatsoever for the document's authenticity other than the word of a rabid partisan Bush-hater who has been known to tell implausible stories about Bush in the past.

Perhaps in an alternate universe, CBS sent their documents first-thing to Hailey and he told them the documents were internally credible. In that universe, CBS may have had some reasonable confidence in the documents. But in this universe CBS shopped around for an expert who wouldn't raise suspicions about the documents. In this universe, CBS acted shamefully. The fact that Hailey is trying to defend them on this does not speak well for his intentions.

Hailey also writes (without citation)
The critical arguments of the above document experts are both spurious and uninformed. The ability of the military to produce the proportional text with a superscript "th" with a typewriter is beyond question.
His disrespect for the other researchers is a simple admission of bias, especially when his counter to them is so weak. As a matter of fact, there is some question of whether "the military" could do that. Just because typewriters existed that could do those things, that does not show that the military owned any of them. The other document experts are concerned with the plausibility of the idea that a National Guard post had such specialized document-production equipment or that they would have used it for private memos if they did.

Also, it seems to me that Hailey is trying to sweep the issue of the proportional fonts under the carpet by concentrating on font form. As far as I know, no one has shown that any National Guard office used proportional-font typewriters for daily business in the seventies. Hailey himself can't find any examples of this. And he has only his own speculation that there was ever a typewriter using the font of the Bush memos. He never found such a typewriter or any document that was written on such a typewriter.

UPDATE:
Wizbang is still claiming that the font is Times New Roman. But I think Hailey made a pretty good case that it's a typewriter font. It would have to be a typewriter font with exactly the same (scaled) dimensions as Times New Roman.

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