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Authenticity backed on Bush documents

After CBS News on Wednesday trumpeted newly discovered documents that referred to a 1973 effort to ''sugar coat" President Bush's service record in the Texas Air National Guard, the network almost immediately faced charges that the documents were forgeries, with typography that was not available on typewriters used at that time.

But specialists interviewed by the Globe and some other news organizations say the specialized characters used in the documents, and the type format, were common to electric typewriters in wide use in the early 1970s, when Bush was a first lieutenant.

Philip D. Bouffard, a forensic document examiner in Ohio who has analyzed typewritten samples for 30 years, had expressed suspicions about the documents in an interview with the New York Times published Thursday, one in a wave of similar media reports. But Bouffard told the Globe yesterday that after further study, he now believes the documents could have been prepared on an IBM Selectric Composer typewriter available at the time.

Analysts who have examined the documents focus on several facets of their typography, among them the use of a curved apostrophe, a raised, or superscript, ''th," and the proportional spacing between the characters -- spacing which varies with the width of the letters. In older typewriters, each letter was alloted the same space.

Those who doubt the documents say those typographical elements would not have been commonly available at the time of Bush's service. But such characters were common features on electric typewriters of that era, the Globe determined through interviews with specialists and examination of documents from the period. In fact, one such raised ''th," used to describe a Guard unit, the 187th, appears in a document in Bush's official record that the White House made public earlier this year.

Meanwhile, ''CBS Evening News" last night explained how it sought to authenticate the documents, focusing primarily on its examiner's conclusion that two of the records were signed by Bush's guard commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian. CBS also said it had other sources -- among Killian's friends and colleagues -- who verified that the content of the documents reflected Killian's views at the time.

One of them, Robert Strong, a Guard colleague, said the language in the documents was ''compatible with the way business was done at that time. They are compatible with the man I remember Jerry Killian being."

But William Flynn, a Phoenix document examiner cited in a Washington Post report Thursday, said he had not changed his mind because he does not believe that the proportional spacing between characters, and between lines, in the documents obtained by CBS was possible on typewriters used by the military at the time.

Flynn told the Globe he believes it is ''highly unlikely" that the documents CBS has obtained could have been produced in 1972 or 1973.   Continued...

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