Thursday, September 09, 2004

60 Minutes Documents forged?

Power Line is reporting here that the Texas Air National Guard memos used by 60 Minutes to cast doubt on President Bush's National Guard service are forgeries. This claim is based on the fact that the memos are not in monospaced font -- that is, fonts in which all characters are of equal width. Instead, the memos are in proportionally spaced fonts, meaning that an i is thinner than a w, for example. Proportionally spaced fonts are currently very common, because the advent of laser printers has removed the necessity for mono spacing. But in 1972, the only way to produce proportionally spaced fonts would be through typesetting equipment -- for an internal memo, never meant for public consumption? I mean, one of them is "SUBJECT:CYA"!

Take a look at the memos (PDF format) here, here, here, and here (main site here), and make your own conclusions. I've been working with computers since 1984 (yes, since I was two years old, no joke), and those look like nothing I've seen printed before c.1995 (compare with this unrelated memo from 1972). Because of the proportional space issue, they are obviously not the product of a typewriter. They look exactly like what you'd expect from a modern desktop computer using MS Word and printing to a Canon, Ricoh or any other modern printer.

UPDATE: a reader to Power Line points out the elevated 'th' in this memo. Can anyone prove this was possible to do in 1972 for an internal memo?

MORE UPDATES: Check out the FReeper factcheck, going on here. You'll find typewriter experts (which I am not) weighing in there.

I'm starting to agree with one of the comments below:

I think something very clever is going on here. I think there are 2 real documents and 2 forgeries. The real documents are the memo ordering GWB to take a physical and the memo revoking his flight status. These are the two docs released by the White House; but they are old news, it has been known for 4 years that GWB missed a physical and lost his flight status.

When I made the statement that "[t]hey look exactly like what you'd expect from a modern desktop computer using MS Word and printing to a Canon, Ricoh or any other modern printer," I had one of the last two in front of me -- I believe the third memo. Looking a little harder at the first two, I can accept the possibility that they were made by a high-quality typewriter, though I still doubt it; but that third one -- if it's not a laserjet-printed document, I'll eat my ink cartridge.

And does anyone have solid evidence that these memos are in fact those released from the White House, as some other commenters have asserted? The CNN report makes a distinction between the documents released by the White House and those that CBS had, which were "personal files from one of Bush's Texas commanders saying Bush discussed with him how to avoid drills during 1972."

LGF, which I should read more often, compares his own version of MS Word with the document here.

THE UPDATES KEEP COMING IN: INDC Journal brings in a Forensic Document Examiner to perform an initial visual analysis. Story here.

EVEN MORE: Kevin Drum, who I'm guessing is a liberal-leaning blogger, reports here that the White House released the memos immediately after receiving them from CBS -- meaning that CBS is the source rather than the WH.

CNSNews has picked up the story here. We'll see if any larger news organizations take the ball and run with it.

Mypetjawa is skeptical.

NEWS SLOWING DOWN: INDC's examiner claims 90% probability of a forgery. Other than that, not much is happening. I get the feeling that everyone is taking a deep breath, crossing their fingers, waiting to see if a major news organization touches the story. INDC's comments section is calling on everyone to get ahold of their local CBS stations, let them know that they'll be taking the fall for the network if they don't start looking into this themselves. And Ron Coleman (of Instapundit sidebar-ad fame) instant messaged me to say:

Hi, Josh. As I have said to a number of bloggers, forget the typeface. The memo is simply not written the way U.S. Army personnel would express themselves in that era. "CYA" in a memo? The use of conjunctions in writing was frowned on in schools during the 1940's and '50's, when these officers were educated. It's just too casual -- "not happy today"?

I touched on that earlier ('I mean, one of them is "SUBJECT:CYA"!'), but didn't really go into detail on that. I've been coming at it from a document analysis point-of-view, because that's the part that sticks out to me. But I have read many others pointing out some of the lingual inconsistencies, both with respect to the casual tone and with respect to typical martial memorandums. The CYA is just the most glaring example. Others include references to 'Bush' without mention of his rank in the second report, usage of the term 'physical examination' rather than the industry standard 'medicals', and reference to 'Ftr Intrcp Grp' rather than the standard abbreviation 'FIG'. I don't have first-hand knowledge of this, so feel free to confirm or correct if you have documentation or some other evidence.

TO THE NEXT LEVEL: The Washington Times picks it up here. Actually, they picked it up off of UPI!

SATIRE ALREADY?: The forgery story is also gaining traction in humor circles.

FURTHER ROUNDUP: Sorry about the lack of updates; I went out to eat. Now I'm back for a little bit, and I'll post what I find.

First, WorldNetDaily has the story here, which mentions LGF, INDC, Drudge Report, Kerry Spot, Power Line, and both the CBS 60 Minutes page and the CNS News story.

Luis at UglyPuppy has a detailed analysis of the visual problems here. Lots of pictures, lots of detail on all of the accusations so far related to the look of the memos.

Powerline has more comprehensive updates, including analysis of the signature, more questions about the availability of proportional type, kerning, and a possible anachronism. BTW: if you're reading this, Dafydd ab Hugh, Balance of Power is a great novel!

Hugh Hewitt touches on the story here, and I hear he had a forensic expert on his show today to talk about the possible forgery.

ABC gets in on it with a story, by an AP writer according to the byline, that Killian's son questions whether his father wrote the memo. It also confirms the CBS-to-White House path.

Weekly Standard has also picked up the story. "[A]ccording to several forensic document experts contacted by THE WEEKLY STANDARD say the Killian memos appear to be forgeries."

And there are reports that the Fox News Channel has picked up the story, although I can't find it on their website yet.

That's it for now. I'll let you know more when I find it.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE: Scrappleface unleashes more humor. Command Post has a roundup. The Talent Show strikes back, but is way behind the news curve.

FINAL UPDATE (probably): Here's what we've all been waiting for: the WaPo picks it up here, and will carry it as front-page news.

After doubts about the documents began circulating on the Internet yesterday morning, The Post contacted several independent experts who said they appeared to have been generated by a word processor. An examination of the documents by The Post shows that they are formatted differently from other Texas Air National Guard documents whose authenticity is not questioned.

Other news hits: The Star Ledger and the Gleaner both carry an AP report. And look at the spin:

Still, the documents marked the second time in days the White House had to backtrack from assertions that all of Bush's records had been released. They also raised the specter that Bush sought favors from higher-ups and that the commander of the Texas Air National Guard wanted to "sugar coat" Bush's record after he was suspended from flying.

This is immediately after admitting that experts believe this is a forgery. If it's a forgery, how can this mark either a forced White House backtrack or the implication that Bush sought favors?

I don't see any other media hits yet.

Mypetjawa is convinced.

Power Line has started new posts on the subject here and following. This one is the most important: Drudge is claiming here that CBS is beginning an internal investigation, and that if need be, Dan Rather will personally correct the record on-air.

If that happens . . . I'm in shock. I know that others (well, a couple at least; let me retain my vanity :P) have pointed to me as one of the pushers of this story. Honestly, I just got lucky by catching the Power Line story at just the right time, and then offering my own uneducated opinion and hanging on for the ride. But to think that a loose group of individuals across the country could conceivably force the biggest name in news to offer an on-air correction . . . If Rather does this, if he apologizes or even just reads a correction note on-air at the end of a newscast, this will be a watershed moment in the blogosphere, in the Internet, and in news. There's no going back.


Anonymous said...

There is also an elevated 'th' in the first PDF (the May 4th document). Interestingly, the 'th' is unelevated in the header, but elevated in the body.

Also, the redacted address information is easily read as '5000 Longmont #8' if you crank the brightness setting on your monitor.

- Brian

Anonymous said...

Well, if they're forgeries, someone better tell the White House:

"CBS reported Wednesday night that it had obtained personal files from one of Bush's Texas commanders saying Bush discussed with him how to avoid drills during 1972. The report on "60 Minutes" said the files were from the personal records of Col. Jerry Killian, who died in 1984.

In the memos, Killian complained of pressure from higher-ups to give Bush positive evaluations and said Bush talked about how to avoid taking a physical exam in 1972, when Bush eventually skipped six months of training and lost his pilot's wings for missing the exam.

After the broadcast, the White House, without comment, released to the news media two of the memos, one ordering Bush to report for his physical exam and the other suspending him from flight status."

Anonymous said...

In addition to one elevated "th", and one non-elevated "th", Word also automatically superscripts "st". If this forger caught one "th" and one "st", why didn't they catch the last "th". That still doesn't answer whether or not superscripts were possible in 1972...

Anonymous said...

The Technology Exisisted.

Circa 1941
IBM announces the Electromatic Model 04 electric typewriter, featuring the revolutionary concept of proportional spacing. By assigning varied rather than uniform spacing to different sized characters, the Type 4 recreated the appearance of a printed page, an effect that was further enhanced by a typewriter ribbon innovation that produced clearer, sharper words on the page. The proportional spacing feature became a staple of the IBM Executive series typewriters.

Anonymous said...

The Aug 01 MOR has a "th" in the body that is not superscript and it's from the same guy.

Anonymous said...

Agree that the proportional font issue is problematic. I just can't remember whether the Selectric was in widespread use at that time ... I know in high school in 1974, we had them for journalism class and typing. Anyway, here's what bugs me about the memo of 04 May. Why is the term "No Later Than" typed out, and then in parentheses rewritten as the abbreviation "NLT"? My experience working with retired military types is that they use NLT as if it were a word. They don't spell it out for you, nor do they use the words first, then paren the abbreviation.. usually it's the other way around. You use the abbreviation and then paren the spell-out. Don't you?? kd

RJGatorEsq said...

Two points:

First, look at the dots from the photocopying. They are not random: they are in patterns, particularly wavy lines. They were drawn on the first copies, in an effort to make them look old, then clumsily photocopied.

Second, GWB did not vouch for the accuracy of the documents by releasing them. They were in his file; he released them. I'm sure my military records have a ton of documents I never saw; if I decided to release my files, and the documents were in there, I'd shrug and say, "Don't remember them, but there they are, so I guess they're part of the file."

Anonymous said...

If the documents are forged why did the White House release them?

Anonymous said...

I've been looking, in vain, for the actual documents that the White House released. I agree that if they contain the suspect typesetting, that it pretty much puts this issue to rest.

Can anybody find these things, and demonstrate that they are the version released by the White House?


Anonymous said...

the White House did not release them...check your facts

Anonymous said...

I was in graduate school after 1973 and I also worked for the government so I remmeber this kind of typing very well. First, indeed there were proportional spacing typewriters. There were very difficult to use because of tricky backspacing. I would never have used one for a routine memo. Secondly, there were ways to fake a superscript on a Selectric. I did that all the time in technical typing. However, they did NOT reduce the size of the letters raised. It's not the raising that's the problem per se it's a) that the raised th is reduced is size; and b) raising type was clunky and time consuming. Why do it in a memo to file? Thirdly, the curly apostrophes need to be explained. I guess it's possible to have had a special selectric "ball" with both straight and curly apostrophes, but I don't remember one. Does anybody know if one existed? This also raises the following question: the proportional spacing typewriters I remember were NOT Selectrics, so you can't clean up these memos by simultaneously appealing to them being typed on the proportional spaced executive series and the Selectric series "typing ball." We have to see if there was one (preferably commonly used) typewriter that could do all of this.

Anonymous said...

Check this out:

Anonymous said...

I think something very clever is going on here. I think there are 2 real documents and 2 forgeries. The real documents are the memo ordering GWB to take a physical and the memo revoking his flight status. These are the two docs released by the White House; but they are old news, it has been known for 4 years that GWB missed a physical and lost his flight status.

What is new is the two documents called "memo to file" which supposedly demonstrate Killian thought he was being pressured. These were supposedly written by Killian to himself and put in his own file in case of later problems (hence "CYA"). So they wouldn't show up in a search for Bush records. How did CBS get them? They say "But 60 Minutes has obtained a number of documents we are told were taken from Col. Killian's personal file." So, someone was thoughtful enough to go look in Bush's CO's personal file (how exactly, if Killian is dead) or clever enough to put two forgeries there that suggest Bush got preferential treatment.

The evidence: 1) The two titles, "Memo to File" are exactly superimposable, which is somewhat unlikely if they were written 4 months apart. In comparison, the headings of the two other memos ("111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron") are not superimposable.
2) "Memo to file" has a flying letter 'e' (sits above the line) but none of the other 'e's in the memo have the same characteristic. WIth a bar-type typewriter (as the IBM executive was) all the 'e's would be the same as a consequence of the misalignment of the key.
3) Only the Killian personal memos have the curly apostrophe, which is suspcious for a 1970's tyewriter. (On the other hand, the memos I believe to be real have the superscript th; was this a feature of the IBM executive (proportional-spaced) typewriter?
Circumstantially, the two memos to file do not have full signatures, which makes verification much more difficult.

Anonymous said...

Bang! Latest update to powerline:

"I now have copies of the memos the White House released, and they are just versions that CBS faxed to the White House the day before the 60 Minutes segment aired. There's no indication that the White House had its own copies of these memos and had been sitting on them. Apologies."

Anonymous said...

Regarding the use of any proportional fonts in DOD official documents (ie. FitReps, Depot Orders, memoranda that go into the official personnel record).

Current official USMC documentation must to be written using a monospaced font even when using modern word processors. I think the font is 'Currier New'. Additionally, official documents use strong formatting throughout. If my memory serves, they get all excited about the number of spaces after the word SUBJECT as well as the number of spaces after the bullet number. Someone should review these newly released documents in light of military regulations (ahem, even for memos the government is beurocratic). It would be especially helpful if some chap with knowledge of the regulations in the Air National Guard at the time would review the spacing.

Lastly, if official documents are monospaced (not proportional) than the office typewriters would have been monospace. There would be no need to purchase a special typewriter for internal memos. The only other answer would be that the LtCol wrote these memos at home.

I have just verified the requirement for space bar driven monospace formatting in official Navy/Marine Corps documentation.


Anonymous said...

Seems a little out of hand and pointless, Bush is no Angel, and either is Kerry, is this really and issue that would have any influence on deciding the leadership of a country on, something that happened in 1972? It seems partisan generally Republicans are saying these are forgeries and Kerry lied about Vietnam. Democrats are gonna say these are real and Bush failed to perform his required service in the Texas Air National Guard.

Lets fast foward to now and what is happening currently in this country. There are more important things going on, that need to be sorted out, instead of the stuff that went on over 30 years ago.

Pick Your Issue
Foreign Policy
Military Records from 30 years ago?

UndercoverPunk said...

Acutally, I'm interested in this for the effects it may have on the mainstream media. I don't think that this reflects at all on either candidate -- unless it's discovered that one side or the other forged these documents, which I highly doubt.

The Truth According to Mark said...

Sone early typewriters did have special "th", "1/2" and "1/4" keys. Proportial spacing was known on high-end typewriters. In 1977, the office Selectric where I worked broke. We got a loaner with a proportional font. It was not a new typewriter at the time but I don't know how old it was. It was difficult to use so I don't know that anyone but a professional typist would own one.

All of John Kerry's available on his web site are mono-spaced including his discharge which was typed in 1976. Many of these are typed onto a form which is hard to do if you don't have a mono-spaced font. This argues that most military typewriters would be mono-spaced.

Anonymous said...

On the memo page 4, the date of 18 August 1973 is a Saturday! Note the call received from Group earlier that day must have then happend on Saturday. Also that IF such a computer existed, the technical staff required to run the Veritype machine (or other system) would not likely be doing this kind of activity.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if the docs are real or not. Given the postings here and looking at the docs on CBS's site, my guess is that at least some of them are fakes. My REAL concern is that "60 Minutes" would actually air an unfriendly segment about an important subject of a presidential candidate, that leaves so many obvious questions unanswered about the docs' authenticity.

It makes one distrust the "mainstream media" even that much more. They should just advertise thier "news" as yet another "docudrama".

Anonymous said...

Dont just point out CBS, the lovely FOX News has its own problems.

johnd01 said...

I didn't think the responsibility for CBS's reporting fell on Fox news. Since when did Bill O'Reilly write Dan Rather's copy? Fox has graduated to "mainstream" too... just as CNN did 10 years ago. They all are biased. I'm just glad we have things like blogs to share other points of view and to get a better look at what is actually being reported.

Anonymous said...

Do you think Dan Rather will stay with the sinking ship(CBS) he's run into an iceberg? He'll bail and blame Bush. If Bush is Evil what makes you think Dan isn't? Do you personally know Dan? Do you know Dan's character? Having worked for TV news I can't believe all the BS the public is fed and accepts. The public treated me like a God. I parked any where I wanted and went any where I wanted because I was with the press. We decided what was news. We decided what you should think is important. Sad really. Sad that the public allows this to happen in a democratic society. Thank goodness for the internet. Thank goodness for people that question. Thank goodness for the thinkers. Thank goodness for a community of true discussion.

Anonymous said...

Why are there so many little pin point black dots on the paper? I've made lots of copies and never had so many of these appear in this way, it looks like someone splattered a piece of paper with ink and then made copies. Also a test of the original paper would show how old the document really is.

Anonymous said...

Punk, thank you for saying that the White House released those documents they got from CBS. Some on the left of the blogosphere are trying to say that these docs are real, because the White House released documents that look the same.

Good catch!

Read John Kerry's anti-American book THE NEW SOLDIER and 4 chapters of UNFIT FOR COMMAND online for free

Anonymous said...

Sorry This is the Link

Anonymous said...

Maybe the USAF is different, but having been in the Army National Guard for years I can tell you that I never had time to write up memos like this. Also, don't you think it suspicious that only incriminating documents showed up? Entropy and military paperwork being what it is, I would think it would be more likely that something stupid would show up, not something that neatly tied everything together in a little package for the benefit of a rival politician. If the documents are forgeries, I would say that the people who constructed them should have thrown in some junk so it would not look so obvious, but then, hey, maybe that is what they will do over the weekend.

Wouldn't it be more likely that these matters would be discussed privately? Guard units tend to be pretty tight as people serve together for long periods of time. Was Bush considered so important that a memo had to be generated to protect someone's decision in the future?

Also, in terms of ET, in the units I was in, ET was often handled informally. We all knew our obligation. I often worked ET issues over the phone with a superior, well in advance. We put together the ET paperwork when the training was executed. Does the Air Guard always document this stuff to this level of detail?

johnd01 said...

I would imagine that Col. Killian would have written or at least signed many similar memos during the same time period. Or are I am to assume that Bush was Killian's only charge?

This issue isn't about the presidential election; it's about the media. What would happen to the whole media community if someone else (ABC, NBC, CNN, Fox, whoever,...) could prove these documents are fake? All it would take it is for some media outlet to INDEPENDENTLY aquire 25-50 documents from around the same time period as each "authentic" document and compare them. If the fonts, spacing, kerning, signatures, format, etc... are the same, then the controversy is over.

If CBS can get hold of Col. Killian's personal files, why can't the rest of the media?

What troubles me the most about this non-issue is the following: Why won't the rest of the media either verify the report, or else call CBS to the carpet over it?

Anonymous said...

Foxnews is questioning CBS.
The son of commander Jerry B. Killia says documents most likely forged! He didn't give CBS the douments.

Luis said...

Wow - this story is picking up steam quick!

I posted a blog entry on my site.
( - and it covers a lot of what's being said about the fonts and word processing glitches. I was particularly interested in the "censored" section (address on May 4, 1972 memo) and why it makes no sense. I explain it in more detail on the blog, but briefly - it's an abvious digital faking of a handmade attempt to censor this with a marker. Why?

Anonymous said...

Other Mil details:

An Air Force (I'm Army, and they grew out of us and use a lot of the same conventions) LtCol would have signed "Commanding", not "Commander". This is the most obvious - to me - of the civilian errors on this document.

And then on the other one, he didn't even get that far on his signature block. What? he was no longer in command? Please.

The other big civvie error is the multiple ways that the Colonel abbreviates his unit. Espirit d' Corps, folks - with some 15-odd years of sevice at this point, the man would have developed a consistent style by this point. Unless, of course, he was an USAF Liaisson Officer for the Navy's Riverine force...

Anonymous said...

I am not really anonymous, I just don't have time to join up right now. I was a pilot in the USAF from 1953 until 1973. I never heard anyone in Operations call a "flight physical", a "flight exam", or a "flying physical", a medical examination. Something isn't right with this story. Another thing that needs to be checked out is the 102. This was a beautiful airplane to fly and if one was going to continue service, the Air Force would check you out in the newer version that was coming into service. If you weren't going to make a committment of X number of years, they were not going to waste the money on you. I think Bush is already on record saying that he was not a career man.
Dave Lucas
Major USAF (retired)

Anonymous said...

I am a retired Air Force Colonel and I have a minor observation about the Killian memos that I have not seen discussed up to this point. The typed date "04 May 1972" represents a format that was not used at the time. "4 May 1972" would have been more like it. Leading zeros were not used until computers demanded them.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone checked if the P. O. Box 345678 Austin Texas even really exists or existed? Don't military address have something like "APO-"?

I mean, really, "34567"?

UndercoverPunk said...

34567, although it sounds suspicious, actually appears to be the correct PO Box. Check out Bush's transfer request here.

Anonymous said...

What I wonder about is the effect of the whole story. If the document is a fake, but the story is true, then what? Is the story the fake or Lt. Bush's getting into the Air Guard, getting a lot of expensive training, and then leaving when it suited him?
As far as his desire to serve in Vietnam, it's easy to see why he didn't want to go. Kids with families like that had the choice. Some went, some found other ways out. So what?
It's sort of like the drinking and drugs issue. So what. Like a lot of rich kids his age, he probably did cocaine. His denials are so hemmed in that you can't come to any other conclusion.
So what? My only problem is with hypocrisy. If you're a young patriot of military age who's in favor of the war, then you ought to go and fight. If you're a drug user yourself, then you shouldn't throw the book at drug users when you're the Governor of Texas. Unless you have the courage to come out and say "yes, I had a cocaine habit. I used way to much cocaine, and I violated the laws and I didn't do my health and my brain any good. So that's why I'm pitching you into prison for 20 years. It's for your own good, and the good of society." Or words to that effect.

Anonymous said...

Just one thing almost no one has picked up on, while discussing fonts, and fake signatures, etc., (all good points, mind you) but there's a question I've only seen one other person ask (and answer), and that is,...

How often are Memos used to issue orders?

That Navy personnel lifer gives the answer that I thought was the case, "NEVER!"

Memos were used to provide information, not issue orders of any kind.

Unless someone messed up more than Kerry and Rather, this docu-drama is (hopefully) about to expire.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with some of the comments, as someone who worked with typewriters from 1960 through early 1970s and with computers from 1962 until now.

The memos in question look to me like they were done on an IBM Executive, my favorite typewriter from about 1967 to '73. It used proportional spacing and turned out results that looked essentially like the memos. On points such as the raised "th", every typewriter I can recall using had a half-line shift to allow doing superscripts and subscripts. That was true even for the ancient manual (non-electric) Royal that I used to type term papers in high school.

The comparison sample provided on the web page looks like it was typed on a Selectric with a Helvetica or Sans Serif ball. Selectrics were more common, were less sophisticated in their early years, but added features as time went by. We used to use Selectrics with math balls fairly often at UCLA, often would change to the math ball when typing equations, then switch back to something more like Courier or Roman.

Anonymous said...

Is there research or blogs about Kerry asking for a deferment while in college then when it didn’t come thru he volunteered for the Navy for four years rather than be drafted into the Army for two years (which being in the Army was considered by some to be more dangerous).

Is there any research or statistics on how many military personnel who served in Vietnam received three purple hearts, how long on average did it take for them to earn the purple hearts, what were the typical injuries, and how many ask for release once they got the three or stayed and completed their duty?