Forgeries or not?

 I’ve generally avoided the substantive question of whether the CBS documents were forged, because I have no special expertise on it, and because others already have it well in hand. But I do want to pass along something that Jim Lindgren, a lawprof at Northwestern whom I very highly respect, sent to me. These are his views, not mine, but they seem to me to be much worth listening to:

The CBS forgeries are in part a generational thing.

While we may never know who forged the documents, it is highly likely that the forger was not an adult in the early 1970s. The forgers, the younger producers at CBS, and some of the younger bloggers who still aren’t sure about the documents’ authenticity are too young to remember what non-typeset documents looked like in 1972. I remember marveling at how beautiful documents typed on IBM Selectrics looked in the 1970s, but their typefaces and spacing did not come close to approaching traditional typesetting, modern computer fonts, or the forged documents in the flow and spacing of the letters. Many of us can remember when two spaces between sentences were usually typed as two spaces, before computers compressed them (as in MS Word and the forgeries).

The “pseudo-kerning” that is present in MS Word and the forged documents was not available in any IBM machine in the early 1970s. As font expert Joseph Newcomer explains, MS Word Times New Roman tucks some letters under parts of other letters. For example, open MS Word in Times New Roman and type “fr” (go ahead, try it). According to Newcomer, no IBM typewriter or office machine of any brand could do that in 1972. If Newcomer is right about this fact alone (and it certainly fits with my lay recollections of the era), then the documents are “proved” to be forgeries. End of story–CBS has the proof it says it wants. CBS needs only the additional time necessary to establish Newcomer’s factual assertion (unless they can find such a nonexistent pseudo-kerning typewriter) before they retract their story and abjectly apologize to Bush and its viewers. And this is only one item in the now extensive evidence of forgery.

In response, there are the statements of new CBS expert Bill Glennon, “an information technology consultant” who repaired IBM typewriters from 1973 through 1985. In its devastating critique of CBS’s position, the Washington Post evaluates Glennon’s argument:

He [Glennon] said that IBM electric typewriters in use in 1972 could produce superscripts and proportional spacing similar to those used in the disputed documents. . . . Thomas Phinney, program manager for fonts for the Adobe company in Seattle, which helped to develop the modern Times New Roman font, disputed Glennon’s statement to CBS. He said “fairly extensive testing” had convinced him that the fonts and formatting used in the CBS documents could not have been produced by the most sophisticated IBM typewriters in use in 1972, including the Selectric and the Executive. He said the two systems used fonts of different widths.

This makes a point that younger commentators in particular have underappreciated. Some have argued that it is not surprising that the purported 1972-73 memos would match modern MS Word pretty closely because both use Times New Roman. Yet as Mr. Phinney explains, he has tested the 1972 machines in question and the spacing is different. Proportional spacing, even with expensive machines in the 1970s, was not the same as the fluid versions in MS Word, as I well remember from working with fancy proportional spacing machines while practicing law in 1979 (machines that were not available in 1972).

It almost goes without saying, as the Washington Post points out, that none of the dozens of other authentic documents that have surfaced from the Texas Air National Guard generally and from Killian himself used proportional spacing of any kind, let alone the kind found in MS Word.

If you doubt that two fonts with the same name line up differently, try this experiment: type and print out a paragraph from one of the CBS forgeries in Times New Roman font in both MS Word and WordPerfect 10 (2002). The CBS forgeries match the MS Word version but not the WordPerfect version. The lines in WordPerfect, using supposedly the exact same font as in MS Word–Times New Roman–do not line up with the lines in the forgeries, not even close. WordPerfect 10 could not have been used to put together the forgeries, but MS Word could have.

Even if Joseph Newcomer were wrong and there were office machines that did pseudo-kerning in 1972, the chances are astronomical that the proportional spacing, superscripts, curved apostrophes, and letter widths would match almost exactly a font that was refined to its present form two decades later.

I think that it was the forger’s youth that made him think that he could get away with not even bothering to buy a 1970s era typewriter to do the forging. Imagine what would have happened if CBS hadn’t had the decency to post the documents online. Yet if in the next day or two CBS can’t admit that they were scammed, then the problems at CBS go much higher up the corporate ladder and much deeper in the news division than we know.

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