'60 Minutes' Documents on Bush Might Be Fake

July 7, 2008 - 7:30 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The 32-year-old documents produced Wednesday by the CBS News program "60 Minutes," shedding a negative light on President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard, may have been forged using a current word processing program, according to typography experts.

Three independent typography experts told CNSNews.com they were suspicious of the documents from 1972 and 1973 because they were typed using a proportional font, not common at that time, and they used a superscript font feature found in today's Microsoft Word program.

The "60 Minutes" segment included an interview with former Texas lieutenant governor Ben Barnes, who criticized Bush's service. The news program also produced a series of memos that claim Bush refused to follow an order to undertake a medical examination.

The documents came from the "personal office file" of Bush's former squadron commander Jerry B. Killian, according to Kelli Edwards, a spokeswoman for "60 Minutes," who was quoted in Thursday's Washington Post. Edwards declined to tell the Post how the news program obtained the documents.

But the experts interviewed by CNSNews.com homed in on several aspects of a May 4, 1972, memo, which was part of the "60 Minutes" segment and was posted on the CBS News website Thursday.

"It was highly out of the ordinary for an organization, even the Air Force, to have proportional-spaced fonts for someone to work with," said Allan Haley, director of words and letters at Agfa Monotype in Wilmington, Mass. "I'm suspect in that I did work for the U.S. Army as late as the late 1980s and early 1990s and the Army was still using [fixed-pitch typeface] Courier."

The typography experts couldn't pinpoint the exact font used in the documents. They also couldn't definitively conclude that the documents were either forged using a current computer program or were the work of a high-end typewriter or word processor in the early 1970s.

But the use of the superscript "th" in one document - "111th F.I.S" - gave each expert pause. They said that is an automatic feature found in current versions of Microsoft Word, and it's not something that was even possible more than 30 years ago.

"That would not be possible on a typewriter or even a word processor at that time," said John Collins, vice president and chief technology officer at Bitstream Inc., the parent of MyFonts.com.

"It is a very surprising thing to see a letter with that date [May 4, 1972] on it," and featuring such typography, Collins added. "There's no question that that is surprising. Does that force you to conclude that it's a fake? No. But it certainly raises the eyebrows."

Fred Showker, who teaches typography and introduction to digital graphics at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., questioned the documents' letterhead.

"Let's assume for a minute that it's authentic," Showker said. "But would they not have used some form of letterhead? Or has this letterhead been intentionally cut off? Notice how close to the top of the page it is."

He also pointed to the signature of Killian, the purported author of the May 4, 1972, memo ordering Bush, who was at the time a first lieutenant in the Texas Air National Guard, to obtain a physical exam.

"Do you think he would have stopped that 'K' nice and cleanly, right there before it ran into the typewriter 'Jerry," Showker asked. "You can't stop a ballpoint pen with a nice square ending like that ... The end of that 'K' should be round ... it looks like you took a pair of snips and cut it off so you could see the 'Jerry.'"

The experts also raised questions about the military's typewriter technology three decades ago. Collins said word processors that could produce proportional-sized fonts cost upwards of $20,000 at the time.

"I'm not real sure that you would have that kind of sophistication in the office of a flight inspector in the United States government," Showker said.

"The only thing it could be, possibly, is an IBM golf ball typewriter, which came out around the early to middle 1970s," Haley said. "Those did have proportional fonts on them. But they weren't widely used."

But Haley added that the use of the superscript "th" cast doubt on the use of any typewriter.

"There weren't any typewriters that did that," Haley said. "That looks like it might be a function of something like Microsoft Word, which does that automatically."

According to an article on the CBS News website, the news program "consulted a handwriting analyst and document expert who believes the material is authentic."

E-mail a news tip to Robert B. Bluey.

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