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Tuesday, September 14, 2004
WaPo’s Analysis Not Good for CBS’s Position

By Steven Taylor @ 10:44 am

Expert Cited by CBS Says He Didn’t Authenticate Papers:

The lead expert retained by CBS News to examine disputed memos from President Bush’s former squadron commander in the National Guard said yesterday that he examined only the late officer’s signature and made no attempt to authenticate the documents themselves.

“There’s no way that I, as a document expert, can authenticate them,” Marcel Matley said in a telephone interview from San Francisco. The main reason, he said, is that they are “copies” that are “far removed” from the originals.

Nevertheless:

CBS executives have pointed to Matley as their lead expert on whether the memos are genuine, and included him in a “CBS Evening News” defense of the story Friday. Matley said he spent five to eight hours examining the memos. “I knew I could not prove them authentic just from my expertise,” he said. “I can’t say either way from my expertise, the narrow, narrow little field of my expertise.”

Shaky ground, to be sure. If I were CBS, I wouldn’t want to base a court case on Matley as my star witness.

And WaPo is catching up with the blogosphere:

A detailed comparison by The Washington Post of memos obtained by CBS News with authenticated documents on Bush’s National Guard service reveals dozens of inconsistencies, ranging from conflicting military terminology to different word-processing techniques.

The analysis shows that half a dozen Killian memos released earlier by the military were written with a standard typewriter using different formatting techniques from those characteristic of computer-generated documents. CBS’s Killian memos bear numerous signs that are more consistent with modern-day word-processing programs, particularly Microsoft Word.

WaPo’s story, which is worth reading in its entirety , notes

A detailed examination of the CBS documents beside authenticated Killian memos and other documents generated by Bush’s 147th Fighter Interceptor Group suggests at least three areas of difference that are difficult to reconcile

These areas are: Word-processing techniques, Factual Problems, and Stylistic differences.

Further, the report casts serious doubt on CBS’s latest “expert analysis":

In its broadcast last night, CBS News produced a new expert, Bill Glennon, an information technology consultant. He said that IBM electric typewriters in use in 1972 could produce superscripts and proportional spacing similar to those used in the disputed documents.

Any argument to the contrary is “an out-and-out lie,” Glennon said in a telephone interview. But Glennon said he is not a document expert, could not vouch for the memos’ authenticity and only examined them online because CBS did not give him copies when asked to visit the network’s offices.

Further,

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.

CBS seems to be digging a massive hole soe themselves, as are those who are clinging to partisan-based reasoning on these documents (and I have read some stuff on blogs of intelligent people who are really ignoring the preponderance of evidence, for example, Mark A. R. Kleiman, whose work on drug politics I very much respect).

I would also note that WaPo is doing a more impressive job of doing actual analysis on this story than is the NYT which features a picture of Matley with Rather and makes no mention of Matley’s clarification on his analysis.

However, the NYT story does indicate that some at CBS are getting a bit nervous:

Several CBS correspondents said in interviews that such developments were making them increasingly nervous.

One network correspondent said, “I’ve talked to colleagues who would love to see more of a defense.”

This person described the state of the staff as “deep concern, I’d say not panic - we all want it to be right.” This person, echoing others, said that Mr. Rather’s resoluteness in addressing the charges on the air was allaying some of the concern. “Dan really put himself on the line and I can’t imagine him knowingly defending something he knew not to be the case.”

A longtime correspondent said flatly, “I’m distressed.”

However, the company line is clear that they still stand by the memos.

Filed under: US Politics: 2004 Campaign

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