Thursday, September 09, 2004


AP Exclusive: Unnamed CBS Document Examiner Comes Forward

E-mail from a friend of mine inside the AP. It’s a draft of an article waiting on one more confirmation and some last minute polishing. I inserted what I thought were appropriate links to articles/posts on the web:

60 Minutes II produced several memos that cast President Bush in a negative light. Once copies of the documents were released, questions about their authenticity were almost immediately raised. On the internet, Powerline took the lead, collecting countless sources and providing a clearinghouse of information.

CBS cited unnamed experts who told them the documents were genuine. According to CBS, the documents were “thoroughly investigated by independent experts.” At the same time, several prominent document examiners have come forward to publicly denounce the documents as forgeries.

Late Thursday night Major George Byron, an expert on forgeries, came forward, declaring himself as one of the unnamed experts. Byron noted CBS never mentioned any other experts, and did not ask him for referrals to other experts:

“I asked them once, who else they had working the documents, and they told me not to worry about it. I brought it up again, because who backs a document with only one expert? I told them they needed at least three. They said they had it covered, they just couldn’t talk about it to protect confidentiality and keep the story from leaking. I had misgivings, but I know documents, not reporting. In this relationship, CBS was the expert, and I put aside my doubts. I sincerely regret that now.”

Byron was further disturbed by what CBS has done to his report. The CBS interpretation produced a conclusion almost diametrically opposed to the conclusion reached by Byron himself. The contention involves the font used in the memos. The public experts seem to be settling on Times New Roman font, common enough on word processors today, non-existent when the memos were written.

Key points in the argument include the use of a superscript “th” after a date (14th), the shape of the apostrophe (curved/curly vs. vertical hash mark), and spaces between letters. The CBS memos appear to have been produced on a modern word processor. One expert was “99% sure” that the documents were forgeries. Byron had said the same thing in his report to CBS:

“CBS asked me if there was any way the documents could have been produced on the indicated dates. I told them I didn’t know of a machine that could have done it in that time frame, but an advanced IBM research prototype may have had some of the capabilities demonstrated in the memos.” This was almost the answer CBS wanted. Byron continued, “They came back with, ‘So it’s possible right?’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. On a trillion-to-one shot it was possible, yes. So I told them while it might be possible, the memos were almost certainly forgeries.”

That was good enough for CBS. They ran the story and are using Major George Byron as their unnamed source.

My friend says AP wants to hit this one out of the park to get the public eye off them and onto anybody else after the “Bush crowd booed” fiasco. There’s also a chance Lindlaw and Hays may be quietly canned if the heat on CBS flares up enough. Obviously the story isn’t on AP’s site yet, but an examination of the header on my friend’s e-mail indicates it is from an internal AP address.
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