September 10, 2004

Dear CBS. . .

Please do a better job researching your stories in the future. That is, provided you have much of a future left.

Jeez, if the blogosphere can sniff out forgeries better, and in faster time, than "experts" utilized by news organizations, I can't help but think that Big Media is even lazier and sloppier than I previously believed. And that's saying something.

UPDATE: I'm not sure why, but I find it incredibly amusing that much of the Internet right now is being used to argue about typewriters. I haven't thought about typewriters since 9th grade, and now today I'm learning more about the infernal machines than I ever wanted to know. At least I'm getting a laugh out of it.

Posted by Ryan at September 10, 2004 12:02 PM

Do you mean like all of the lazy and sloppy "research" leading up to the Iraq war? You know, like considering an Iranian spy a credible source of information and pretending "freedom fries" is an actual news story?

Or are you still doing your biased-accusations-of-bias thing?

Posted by: David Grenier at September 10, 2004 01:19 PM


Posted by: Joshua at September 10, 2004 01:24 PM

lazy and sloppy "research" leading up to the Iraq war

Research, I'm sure you're aware, that was accepted as fact by pretty much every nation on the face of the frickin' planet.

And I thought the "Freedom Fries" thing was, and is, plenty stupid.

I'm not attacking bias on this one, David. I'm underscoring the fact that CBS went to press with documents that are very likely forgeries. It has nothing to do with bias and everything to do with trying to get a weak scoop at the expense of their own credibility. Although I'm hearing murmurs that Dan Rather may have had political reasons of his own for pushing the story, which I don't know anything about, so I won't go there.


Posted by: Ryan at September 10, 2004 01:25 PM

Nothing to do with this post but I thought you might like to see yourself rendered as a superhero, Ryan.

Mmmmm, freedom fries. Reminds me of the Jack in the Box commercial for his natural cut fries, classic and funny and damned if they don't taste better than them stinky ol' french fries.

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at September 10, 2004 01:48 PM

I would rather go to press with forged documents than go to war. Too bad all those forged document experts weren't consulted before we killed thousands of people.

Posted by: D at September 10, 2004 02:03 PM

Dear US Government,
Please do a better job researching your basis for war in the future.

Remember the documents saying that Iraqi attempted to obtain yellow-cake uranium from Niger? You know, the forged documents that were used as a basis for war? Where was your outrage then?

Posted by: Melanie at September 11, 2004 11:39 PM

Off topic: Hey, I know you were a regular reader, so, do you know what heppend to the Strip Mining Form Whimsy weblog?

Posted by: Marcus Martins at September 12, 2004 12:05 PM

Strip Mining For Whimsy is still up and running just fine, as far as I can tell, right here:

Melanie and D: So, let me get this straight. I post about shoddy reporting by CBS, in a profession that is somewhat important to me, seeing as how I'm in journalism, but you want to turn around and talk about the war in Iraq and try to tie it in somehow, rather loosely, with my original post? Come on. Address the topic at hand.

Posted by: Ryan at September 12, 2004 01:26 PM

I simply asked where you're outrage was then. So it's just an issue about journalism for you?

Posted by: Melanie at September 12, 2004 01:55 PM

It comes down to this: if every post I put up keeps winding back to comments about outrage over the Iraq war and the intelligence leading up to it, well, gah. For example, if I were to post about my favorite Italian food, and for some reason I find myself arguing with folks about the use of depleted uranium in the military, there would be something a bit unsettling there. So, yes, Melanie, this post was about lamenting a decline in journalistic integrity, particularly in a Big Media theater. Dan Rather went to bat behind documents that are almost certainly forgeries, and those forgeries were exposed by the workings of some alert bloggers, and now CBS is saying "don't believe such Internet 'rumors.'" There's no mention of Iraq in here. There's no mention of Afghanistan. There's no mention of 9/11. I'm just surprised that CBS and Dan Rather, representing the upper echelons of broadcast journalism, could be so easily shnookered by forged documents.

Posted by: Ryan at September 12, 2004 04:12 PM

Oh, and more food for thought, exploring the possibility of political bias shaping this story:

Posted by: Ryan at September 12, 2004 04:16 PM

Okay, so, I don't want to spend too much time on this because, as I believe I've said several times, I just don't care very much. But--

Wouldn't it be possible for the Pentagon to prove or disprove the provenance of these documents? And if so, why haven't they done so? If the answers were going to work in Bush's favor I don't imagine the Pentagon would have any trouble getting release authorization for the documents.

Posted by: Joshua at September 12, 2004 06:00 PM

The way I understand it, Joshua, and I'd have to research it more to be totally content, is that military records, due to the technology available at the time as well as faulty personnel bookkeeping, has resulted in the loss or destruction of plenty of records, not just those relating to W. It was, after all, an era of considerable military paperwork, and the military says it just couldn't possibly keep up with filing all that information into perpetuity. Which is understandable, but only a little bit. Additionally, the forged memos in question here, I think, are supposed to be "non-official" hastily written dash offs composed by W.'s superior, which means they're probably not treated the same as other military documentation. The prevailing defense of the documents, right now, is that they "could" have been written using an IBM Selectric Composer typewriter, which could have possibly created the documents in question during the time they were supposedly created. One has to wonder, though, what W's superior was doing with a fairly expensive typewriter for the time, and why he didn't use the same typewriter to write other memos. Did he just use his IBM Selectric to write memos giving bad reviews for Bush? That's some selective usage there.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I honestly think CBS is going to take a bath on this one, and Rather is going to retire with a big round black eye at the end of his career.

Posted by: Ryan at September 12, 2004 06:42 PM

not that i care too much either, but…W's lack of attention to this latest attack doesn't necassarily mea it warrants any more merit. it would be a poor campaign decision for W to counter every attack of this nature. look at what it's done kerry's messaging. W's campaign doesn't want to dive into the trench on any of these matters, kerry's has and it's stuck shoveling.

Posted by: seed at September 12, 2004 07:20 PM


You know, Ryan, I like you a lot but a subtle spinner of bias you ain't. "The forged memos in question", "they 'could' have been written", and my personal favorite, "which could have possibly created"-- 'cause, hey, you can never have too many qualifiers.

You've clearly made up your mind on this one, so there's not much point in arguing with you.

I've read the typewriter back-and-forths. It's cute and everything-- spotting a type-face inconsistency. It's a lot like something from Quincy, or Perry Mason. Can't you just see Raymond Burr standing up and thrusting the documents at a hapless Dan Rather-- "But what you failed to notice, Mister Rather, is that these documents were composed on a typewriter that drops the letter'i'! Failed to notice or-- (dum-dum-dum!) Chose to ignore..."

It's possible that the documents are forged, but I don't find the evidence up to this point terribly compelling. Part of the reason is that most of the investigation up to this point has been carried out by people working with digitized facsimiles. Having tried to duplicate documents between formats myself— often by scanning an original document, turning it into a background image, and attempting to create a copy by typing over the image —I know that there's a lot of room for error in that kind of processing. Most scans and imaging protocols (jpg, gif) subtly warp and skew text images. My personal theory on the cause is that the compression formulas group color signals, but I'm not really sure what the exact cause is. I've just had a recurring problem with it when I've tried to forge documents using imaging technology. So I'm not terribly impressed by this "matching" business. I know from personal experience that even matching identical documents has more to do with messing with the shape of the image than it does with the veracity of the procedure.

Also? It's just such an obvious amateur mistake. The most basic texts of forgery and document handling will tell you to be aware of the differences between word processors and typewriters. I learned all that stuff when I was a kid, but it can also be found in pretty much any "how-to" book on crime—Ecodefense, Anarchist's Cookbook, etc. There's a million little details to stuff like that— glass pane consistency in copiers (always lay down saran wrap if you're using a traceable copier, to create false variances in the pane consistency), toner formulas, shit like that. Hell, there's the easiest test in the world right there— take a scraping of the ink from the original document. Run it through a gas chromatograph. If it's ink, you know it came from a typewriter. If it's toner, well, mystery solved. Hell, check the bonding on the paper. Acid content. Do a carbon test; if the paper's new, there's another give-away.

And kind of on and on like that. If you have enough money, there are a million ways to spot a paper forgery. I just find it hard to believe that any competent person would make such an obvious mistake. And it really is incredibly obvious, believe me.

That doesn't mean it's not possible. Smart people make stupid mistakes all the time. It's one of the thoughts I keep having about all these new "anti-terrorism" measures in domestic security; I think there aren't enough criminals in government. Because, from a criminal perspective, none of this stuff stands up. Believe me— I could get enough semtex through airport security to blow an airplane in half, and I could do it with my eyes closed. Anyone who's ever smuggled drugs could. The only secret is to have an open mind about what's possible, and then be very practical about working around it.

Posted by: Joshua at September 13, 2004 11:52 AM

It's far more than just a technical issue regarding typewriters, Joshua.

Also, I understand that one of the documents mentioned an officer who had, in fact, been discharged two years earlier.

Yes, Joshua, they may be extremely poorly done forgeries, which makes CBS falling for them all the more surprising.

Posted by: Ryan at September 13, 2004 12:13 PM

There's also this:

And, Joshua, why does your site keep going down? I haven't been able to read it all morning.

Posted by: Ryan at September 13, 2004 12:15 PM

Good Point. Anyways, this was where i met her. You can join for free as well

Posted by: click here at March 12, 2005 03:40 AM
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