Do CBS' Docs Stand Up to Science?

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Sept. 13, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: Document authentication can be a tricky business as we've learned in recent days. And some experts say it can be easier to declare a document fake than to establish it's real.

For more on this whole process, I'm pleased to be joined from Phoenix by Sandra Ramsey Lyons, a document expert in private practice who has previously worked for the U.S. Treasury Department (search), the attorney general of Arizona. She is a member of the Academy of Forensic Science, and is certified by the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners (search).

Welcome to you, Ms. Lyons.


HUME: Let's go to a couple of these documents that CBS News brought out last week and talk about the signatures, which I guess what was used by a CBS-retained expert to authenticate at least one of these documents. We're looking on the screen now at two of the signatures that are from the documents. One is the signature that purports to be the signature of Jerry B. Killian (search). And the other purports to be his initials. From what you can see there, what can you tell us about those two signatures?

LYONS: Well, these two signatures came off the questioned documents. They were compared with signatures that were found on known documents or documents that were believed to have been signed by Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian.

HUME: Which had been released earlier by the White House, correct? As far as you know?

LYONS: That's correct.

HUME: And I think we can show those as well.

LYONS: Right. First, I inter-compared all of the known specimen signatures to make sure that they were all one writer. They were consistent with each other. Then I took a...

HUME: All of them?

LYONS: All of them.

HUME: All of these four. You're talking about these are the known signatures...

LYONS: Well, there were more than these four.

HUME: Right. But we've got four...

LYONS: This is just a sample.

HUME: All right. But these four and the others you saw that were from from this batch of documents looked to be the same to you?

LYONS: Yes. They were consistent with each other. Consistent with being one writer.

HUME: Got you.

LYONS: Then I inter-compared them with the two signatures that I did have. One is not a full signature; it's a partial signature.

HUME: Right.

LYONS: Nowhere on any of the documents did I have a partial signature. Both of these signatures are partial signatures. As indicated, if you look J, the ending stroke of the J. Lieutenant Colonel Killian always finished it off with E-R-R-Y...

HUME: Right. Let's look — hold on just a second. Let's go back to the first comparison, because I think you were talking about where he spelled out his name.

Now, in that one you indicated that he went ahead, you indicate that on the one on the right, he seemed to go ahead and spell out his name. That's the one we believe to be real. The one on the left, which is the new one. What's the difference again?

LYONS: Right. He spelled out E-R-R-Y, Jerry in the ending stroke. And this was done in every single known signature that I had of his.

HUME: Right.

LYONS: If you notice, there's just a J. There's no E-R-R-Y at the end of the ending stroke. Also, there were numerous differences. If we even can start with the J, the form of the letter J is totally inconsistent with the way he makes J's. The J's that he makes are more curved inward. These are more straight up and down. The bulb of the top of the J is extremely large as compared to the way he makes the J's in his known signatures. In addition to that, there was the letter K was not made the same way. I could go on, and on, and on. They're just very, very different. And my opinion was that these two signatures very probably were not written by Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian.

HUME: Assuming that the first batch was correct. Now, let me just ask you a question: You're able to make these comparisons and make these conclusions because you're looking at handwriting, which is quite distinct. What about the task of looking at the text of the body of the documents themselves? The typewritten or printed text, you're working off of copies there as well. What are the processes, the procedures and the possibilities of authenticating body text like that?

LYONS: When I received these four documents I thought, "I wonder if these could be produced on a word processing system."

We don't just look at one thing — by the way, there are signatures involved in the document — a real forensic document examiner looks at the entire document.

HUME: Right.

LYONS: Something in my mind struck me that these were computer generated. So I tried to do it on a computer and, lo and behold, I was able to produce the documents using Word and the wrap-around or line-for-line ended the exact same way as in the default system of Word, the spacing an everything. I thought that was interesting.

And then I did see the superscripted in there. And I thought, I don't know. Did a typewriter exist that had proportional spacing and was able to produce that superscript?

HUME: Right. And so you came up with the conclusion that these are likely not real?

LYONS: That these were very probably not — this includes everything: the signatures, the type font — that these were very probably not produced...

HUME: Got to go.

LYONS: ... by a typewriter.

HUME: Sandra Lyons, thank you so very much.

LYONS: You're welcome.

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