My last go around on the docs is inspired in part by this leftwing epistemiology and in part by this analysis of what one of Andrew Sullivan's readers wrote. I'm sort of fisking the first link but in reality I'm using it as an example of a type rather than a fisk of itself on its own.
The first thing that I note is that our nice liberal lady has utterly and completely missed the point about MS Word reproductions.
A lot of bloggers have been crowing about their ability to create documents similar to the Killian memos in Word. As Brian Weatherson notes, they are fallaciously affirming the consequent. Of course word processors can imitate typewritten documents. That's what they were designed to do! This is especially true if you already know what the Killian memos look like and set about duplicating them.
There are two things wrong with this. Firstly word processors are not imitating typewriters, if they were we'd all be reading documents in Courier or Pica Elite, rather word processors are imitating advanced typesetting systems. Secondly the whole point about the LGF reproduction was that it took no effort what so ever. There was no need to resort to MS Forger type tricks to reproduce the memos. Just using the (American) default settings for margins, tabs, centering, typeface etc. resulted in documents that were identical when printed. I have played with the August 18 memo - and the only way to get a match with the CBS memo in word is to stick 100% with the defaults. If you change the margins, the font etc you very different line breaks. In particular the second and third lines (ending in regarding and rating respectively) do not end up being the same length with any other font that I have tried. - Bookman Old Style, Goudy Old Stle, Century Schoolbook, Palatino Linotype etc. although I admit that Garamond gets close (there is approx a 1 point difference in lengths but in order to get Garamond to work requires changing the paper to A4 so that the other lines go correctly and means that the date position is incorrect without fiddly changes).
The question is whether there is anything about the documents that's rare or impossible in typed documents but ubiquitous in word processed documents. So far, I haven't seen any evidence of that. The discredited typography allegations were intended to show that the documents couldn't have been produced by a typewriter. If the critics had found traits of the memos that would have been unlikely or impossible from a a typewriter but nearly universal from a word processor, that would have suggested that a word processor was responsible. In fact, without the typography claims, all the critics are doing with their homemade Word demos is pointing out that a similar but not identical document can be produced in Word. So far, no one has been able to produce a document in Word that is truly identical at the level that would convince a questioned document examiner. All that has been shown so far is that Word can do many of the same things as typewriters.
This is where we see that we live in a different but parallel reality. I do not believe that Joseph M. Newcomer's analysis has been discredited. Rather it has been strengthened through further analysis however Majithise says later on that
In fact, the documents have been copied so many times that the type looks kerned because of cumulative distortions.
This is a clear example of someone who has not been reading the evidence properly since Newcomer uses as one example the behaviour of the "f" character in TrueType Times New Roman as definitive evidence that the docs are forgeries. He says its pseudo-kerning not kerning - fair enough - but it was one of the things that jumped right out at me when I looked at it earlier and I refuse to believe that scrumpling or photocopying distortion can cause this effect because in the 18 August memo it is one factor that contributes to the two lines being the same length because the pseudo-kerning of the f is different in other fonts to that in TNR. As Newcomer says it is worth looking at Occam's razor here, the documents line up incredibly well to default Microsoft word replicas and exhibit features that were extremely difficult to reproduce in the early 1970s and which no other equivalent military documents display (for example this one from the same AFB at the same time is very clearly in a fixed width font). The chances of this being coincidental are about as low as two named individuals in different locations being struck by lightning simultaneously.
The same error occurs in her analysis of the stylistic complaints. The signature style and use of abbreviations and rank designations in the forged memos is different to that seen on all genuine documents seen on the Internet (such as at the awolbush site). Just as an example Baldilocks points out that OETR is not used as an abreviation for anything in the Air Force/Air National Guard although giving a hint as to why it might have been used by the forger, it does appear on various Bush AWOL website documents. The OER / OETR confusion is an excellent example of something that the purported author simply would not have got wrong, there has been numerous testimony and documentary evidence to show that OER is what the military used as an abbreviation and Lt Col Killinan must have written or signed hundreds of these in his career (such as this one, which clearly states that it is a COMPANY GRADE OFFICER EFFECTIVENESS REPORT). To my mind it is similar to a professor saying that a graduate just got a DPh or a PhilD rather than a PhD. Unless someone can show that, in the way that Oxford calls a PhD a DPhil, the Texas ANG and/or 111th FIS in the 1970s called an OER an OETR then that adds to the compelling evidence.
The problem here is that the "fallacious affirmation of the consequent" is in fact in evidence on the CBS side. If you believe in your heart of hearts that Bush was AWOL then you don't worry about trifling details of font size or the abbreviations or the lack of sourcing because these memos affirm the consequent as you wish and are therefore true QED. It makes sections like this bit seem ironic in that the burden of proof seems oddly switched.
Authentication is not some magic epistemological seal of approval. It's a judgment based on a accumulated balance of probabilities. Sometimes an expert has to conclude that the evidence is ambiguous. This appears to have been the case with Matley. He concluded that it was impossible to tell whether these were real memos with Killian's signature or faked memos with genuine signatures tacked on. If the physical evidence is ambiguous, it becomes necessary to turn to other sources. If the questioned document examiners were able to affirm that the documents could be real, the evidential burden shifts to the reporters. They must ask questions about the quality of the source, the plausibility of the provenance, the consistency of the content with our other well-founded beliefs about Bush's record, and so on.
The Instapundit and Virginia Postrel both made similar points about the low trust nature of blogging and how bloggers get edited via theit readers and the commenters. This is why the typographic evidence is so good. We have seen people attempt to produce the memos on IBM typewriters of the period and discovered that to do so is extraordinarily difficult and we have seen that it is remarkably easy to do so on modern word processors. Then working from that base we have seen various printing and typographical experts explain why (pseudo-kerning, line-spacing etc.). From that we have arrived at a point where anyone can follow a fairly simple set of instructions and produce perfect reproductions of the memos using MS word while offers of a $10,000+ reward have failed to produce ANY typewriten replicas at all.
On the other hand some of the stylistic complaints turned out to be less accurate. For example One Hand Clapping reported that one memo referenced a false manual/regulation (AFM 35-13), which later investigation showed to be relevant - and referenced in one of the Awol bush documents), but if you look at the OHC link above you will see that this is noted in one of the Updates to the original post. This is precisely what is good about the blogosphere and why it is better than most mainstream media, correctional updates are posted immediately the error is caught so that other readers do not need to waste time on false information.
In related links: Allahpundit also notes that CBS's experts seem to have each been given a subset of the memos in order that if any one expert was suspicious of a particular memo it would not require invalidating all of them.