September 30, 2004

Blizzard v. BNETD (Davidson v. Internet Gateway) Fair Use/DMCA horrors

Blizzard v. BNETD (formally "Davidson & Associates v. Internet Gateway") is a case about the right to reverse-engineer and build a open-source network game emulator. A district court decision has just been issued (via Ed Felten). In sum, it's a horror on every item, and rules solidly against programmer's interests.

Some of the parade of horrors:

The quasi-Libertarian like-it-or-lump-it view of a contract of adhesion:

The parties in this case did have unequal bargaining power because Blizzard is the sole seller of its software licenses; however, the defendants had the choice to select a different video game, to agree to the terms and gain the software and access to, or to disagree and return the software for a full return of their money.

The "If you have to ask, you can't afford it" principle (that is, if you're skilled enough to reverse-engineer a program, you're presumed to understand you're forbidden to do it!)

Also, the defendants are not unwitting members of the general public as they claim. They are computer programmers and administrators familiar with the language used in the contract, and have the expertise to reverse engineer and understand source code.

You can click away your fair use rights (my emphasis):

The Federal Circuit in Bowers stated that the First Circuit recognized the contractual waiver of affirmative defenses and statutory rights, therefore, the defendants could contractually waive their fair use right to reverse engineer. Id. The Court finds the reasoning in Bowers persuasive. The defendants in this case waived their "fair use" right to reverse engineer by agreeing to the licensing agreement. Parties may waive their statutory rights under law in a contract.

Open Source [Update2: or Free Software] counts against you in terms of a DMCA defense:

The bnetd emulator had limited commercial purpose because it was free and available to anyone who wanted to copy and use the program.

Interoperability exemption is narrow:

Finally, the development and distribution to others constituted copyright infringement and persons who commit copyright infringement cannot benefit from the exemptions of &sec; 1201(f). See 17 U.S.C. &sec; 1201(f)(2)-(3). "Sections 1201(f)(2) and (3) of the DMCA are not broad exceptions that can be employed to excuse any behavior that makes some device 'interoperable' with some other device." Lexmark Int'l Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., 253 F.Supp.2d 943, 970 (E.D. Ky. 2003).

On and on ... Read it and weep.

It's a huge burden to read through dozens of pages of a court case, and then try to figure out something original and insightful to say while a bunch of other people are trying to do the same thing. I'm inclined to stop doing it. But this one was "worth it" tonight :-(.

[Update: See also Ernest Miller's take, Major DMCA/EULA Loss - District Court Clueless in BNETD Case]

[Update2: See also the BNETD v. Blizzard netradio show, where I'm one of the guests]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in dmca | on September 30, 2004 11:55 PM | (Infothought permalink)
September 29, 2004

Banned Censorware Report : "BESS (N2H2) and The Ineffable Name"

[Continuing the homage to Banned Books Week, I've described below another Censored Censorware Report ]

BESS (N2H2) and The Ineffable Name


For no one can utter the name of the ineffable God; and if any one dare to say that there is a name, he raves with a hopeless madness.

-- The first Apology of St Justin, Chapter 61

This report was going to discuss "unsearchable names" of N2H2's censorware program BESS. That is, names which could not be searched because they matched banned keywords. Just to illustrate the concept, though not banned here, consider "Dick Van Dyke" (if you didn't know that was a real name, wouldn't it sound made-up?). As N2H2 (the censorware company) put it:

Search Terms
This category restricts access to search result pages based on key words that are known to return offensive results, but does not block access to search engines.

Examples of these key words are very offensive, so are not included here.

So offensive that they cannot be named?! That's almost Biblical. When I decrypted N2H2/Bess, one of the blacklists was a long sequence of various names and name-patterns. It was actually pretty amusing. As in, who were all these people? How (in)famous did you have to be, in order to get your name on the list?

There was plenty of material here. Compare for example China censored keywords. But this wasn't about China, it was about a US company, which could sue me. So since I didn't have the protection or support I needed, the report was derailed, and eventually the research was essentially destroyed.


Do not play the Name Game if you are called Chuck.

[I don't know if I would have left in this little joke, it's edgy. I always want to have my material be good reading in terms of the writing itself. But I get flack for it. One very well-known free-speech activist claims I don't get my reports read and covered because the literary quotes are too much fluff]

Granted, this material was not the most earth-shattering of revelations. But I think the specifics were a worthwhile research contribution, which would have been a useful addition in opposing censorware propaganda. However, the mathematics was that the upside was likely there would be only a few readers, versus a downside of lawsuit and smear risks. Now, not every report has exactly the same amount of legal risk, and I don't want to ignore distinctions. This one was in fact arguably on the lower end. But not zero or practically so. On the other hand, it wasn't a blockbuster, so my paucity of press meant the readership would be minuscule. On the balance, this was low-probability Russian Roulette, but that's still Russian Roulette. It wasn't worth it.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on September 29, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
September 28, 2004

Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week. Though I search in vain among the PR for much consideration of the banning of websites, which seems to me to be so relevant after the library censorware law went into effect.

The ACLU's Banned Books Week page actually makes a mention of censorware, among all the Patriot Act references (emphasis added):

Libraries are at the center of the struggle to preserve everyone's freedom to access a diversity of ideas, information and opinions. Banned Books Week, from Sept. 25 to Oct. 2, calls attention to the wealth of creative expression that is stifled when libraries are forced to remove some books from their shelves.

When a Web site is blocked on a library computer or a book is taken off the library shelves, it is easy to see how your freedom to access information is being compromised. But other threats to our freedoms in the library can occur in secret. When you check out a book and visit a Web site, do you know if somebody else is watching?

I've long had the idea for Banned Websites Week. But that project was another casualty of my having quit censorware decryption, and soured on activism in general. I actually got a nibble about it a few months ago, and declined. I just didn't want to go through another project where I likely wouldn't get much reputation-credit, wouldn't reach people, but had several possible ways to lose. Maybe it doesn't matter. All I can do is note that here's another effort which would have been done if I hadn't been ground-down and driven-out, and I've outright given up on it due to the lack of support, draining attacks, and marginalization (regrets, remember, I gave notice of upcoming gloomy postings).

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on September 28, 2004 11:56 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
September 27, 2004

N2H2 (censorware company) PR "statistics" in news article

The infamous example of lying with statistics from censorware company N2H2 appeared yet again in a news article:

Workplace porn: alive and well
Friday, September 24 2004
by Deirdre McArdle

Filtering technologies can also play a part in protecting both companies and their employees from inappropriate material. ...

Perhaps the biggest mistake firms can make is to do nothing to stop this growing problem, and it is just that: a growing problem. "Internet and e-mail usage is continuing to grow, as is the number of adult websites online," said Wisdom. The scale of growth of these adult websites is phenomenal: filtering software company said that there were more than 260 million pornographic web pages on the internet in 2003, compared to only 14 million in 1998.

Now, what is the use of my pointing out that the numbers quoted here rely entirely on the censorware company's own words, with no check as to their honesty? That any implication about "a growing problem" should be placed in the context of the fact that the relative proportion of "pornographic web pages" has arguably not changed at all? (that is, relative to the total web). Who is reading? Who cares?

Give my marginalization, the people hearing me about censorware are generally either a tiny number of hardcore fans, in which case nothing is gained by my going over the topic again, or, oppositely, those who don't care, such as censorware company employees (really - practically, these are some of my most dedicated readers!). Remember the N2H2 legal case - I can't risk a lawsuit for any decryption research.

This is one example of why I have such a dim view of the blog blather. My voice is nowhere near the reach of N2H2's flacking. Preaching to the choir is useless from the standpoint of having any effect.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on September 27, 2004 11:36 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (7) | Followups
September 26, 2004


I should have noted my second blogiversary earlier. Sadly, though, there wasn't much to note. I'm up to a readership of, I estimate ... 300/per day.

Not 6500/day. Not 2000/day.


Whoopie. My reader-fortune is made.

Whatever connections or credentials or appeal or luck are needed to have high readership, I apparently lack them. Yes, bloggers are starving in Africa (or enslaved in Sudan). That's not a reason for me to keep banging my head against the wall.

I've slowed down on blogging before. But e.g. an A-lister spike, or some other reasons, were marginally encouraging.

However, the Greplaw attack was another, major, turning point for me in terms of being driven out of net freedom fighting. And I'm obviously not too successful at "citizen journalism".

Some people compare writing to doing exercise. They're moving their fingers on the keyboard, like taking a walk is moving one's legs just for the sake of moving one's legs. That's fine, if you want to do it. Whatever makes you happy. At the same time, I wish there would be more respect for an opposing belief that the destination matters, not the journey. The outcome, not the process. Sometimes, it's not the thought which counts (but the effect, or absence thereof).

Fair notice: Some future upcoming postings (possibly Banned Books Week related, maybe a Greplaw follow-up) are likely to be gloomy.

[Update: For those interested, the 300 breaks down into roughly 100 for Bloglines, 100 from the website feed, and 100 directly from the page. Now, there's some variation, and these numbers might be off by a factor of 2 - but they aren't off by a factor of 10].

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on September 26, 2004 11:54 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (10) | Followups
September 25, 2004

Mercury News mentions in article about Google and China News Censorship

I'm mentioned today in a Mercury News article about Google and China censorship:

In many cases, links to the Web sites will appear in search engine results, but they return error messages when users click on them.

Seth Finkelstein, an Internet filtering authority, said he suspects Google agreed to remove the Web sites from its Chinese news service as part of a deal with the Chinese government to lift its 2002 ban.

But [Jonathan] Zittrain said he doubted there was any type of collusion and believes Google appears to have been forced into a difficult business decision.

``They have to face a decision if they want a footprint there,'' he said. ``If they offend the Chinese government, it will be hard to succeed there, which will make it impossible to offer the Chinese citizens any information.''

I like being described as "authority", and being in the same piece as Jonathan Zittrain (n.b. I don't think we're saying that much different). I need all the ego-boost I can get :-).

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on September 25, 2004 09:08 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
September 23, 2004

Gatekeepers of the Media vs. Blog Triumphalism

Information Flow and the Gatekeepers of the Media (via Eric Muller) is a great antidote to the blog blather. But the CBS Memos story is in fact a little more complex than is generally understood.

There were apparently at least two tracks pushing the story. TWO. A blog track and a right-wing PR agency track. Now, some people have thought the blog track was a sock-puppet of the PR agency. The evidence doesn't support that. In fact, it argues the tracks developed separately, and then later merged.

According to PRWeek:

Creative Response Concepts (CRC), the VA-based agency promoting the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, used right-wing blogs and news sites to turn a CBS report casting doubt on President George W. Bush's National Guard service into a potential black eye for both the network and the Democrats.

A CRC client, the Cybercast News Service (CNS), was among the first to voice suspicion that documents suggesting Bush had received preferential treatment in the Guard were forgeries.

"After the CBS story aired, [CNS] called typographical experts, got them on the record that these papers were fishy, and posted a story by 3pm Thursday," said CRC SVP Keith Appell. "We were immediately in contact with [Matt] Drudge, who loved the story."

CRC worked with CNS and the Media Research Center, another media watchdog client, to push the story into the mainstream press.

"We've been communicating with bloggers and news websites to make sure they know it isn't just Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge who are raising questions," added CRC president Greg Mueller.

CRC later clarified the blog claim.

The initial article was at "Thursday, September 09, 2004 2:41 PM EST" (probably should be EDT). The full CNS article (out by 2:55:04 PM EDT) is clearly a parallel work. It doesn't refer to the blog investigations at all, and quotes different experts. The article went on the United Press International wired, being at least echoed by the Washington Times

Drudge posts about the CNS article and the blog investigation around 2:46 EDT, combining the two tracks (note: for some reason, the Drudge archive version only has a blog link, but "'60 Minutes' Documents on Bush Might Be Fake" is the CNS article title, and the contemporary echoes have both links)

The Media Research Center press release says: "CBS News must come clean on this document scandal broken by ...". But that's dated "September 10", so it seems that bit of PR was late to the party.

So, the blog track was not an invention of the PR firm. Instead, the tracks seem to have come together with vigor. HOWEVER, when there is high-powered PR firm also flacking the story at the same time, in parallel, it's a little difficult to see a triumph of (insert string of buzzwords here). The story would not have been undiscovered if the blog writers hadn't been working on it *too* - it would merely have been a more PR-firm driven story.

Which is not to denigrate the widespread work. However, the reason that work was heard boiled down to various press connections, and in terms of having the story being publicized, the wind was at their back.

In contrast, a blogger without those situational advantages is shouting to the wind.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on September 23, 2004 02:40 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2) | Followups
September 21, 2004

Blogs, Gatekeepers, Truth, Media (CBS Memos vs Internment Defense)

Last week Daniel Kreiss had a post quoting me (accurately). The subject was commenting within blogs, but the ideas have even more relevant as blogs are being touted so much in the wake of the CBS Memos scandal. (my emphasis added below)

The second problem I have with Winer's comments is something that I have long encountered in the blogosphere: the idea that everybody can participate equally. Perhaps Winer, who no doubt has enjoyed the fruits of heavy traffic to his "publication" for years, cannot relate to what the less visible among us actually experience when we blog. Our words tend to slip into an ether of random google searches and stay confined to a loyal readership among family and friends.

There is no problem with this, but for Winer to suggest that somehow starting your own blog to comment on other blogs is miraculously going to provide for anything but one-sided conversation (coming from the "A" listers) is disingenuous at worst, naive at best. Seth Finkelstein put it best when in an interview with me he said:

"It's a big big mistake thinking that gatekeepers are gone. The reason people say this, those people saying it are those who have overcome all the barriers except for the production barrier. They have the connections, the paying job, all the barriers except for the editorial publishing barrier are removed. When it shifts they think they have Christmas everyday. That barrier is replaced by a noise barrier. The barrier is exactly the same, one gatekeeper has become another. Shift in one place, but there is a corresponding loss in another space."

Seth is getting at an important point, namely that you cannot read everybody in the blog world. ... The underlying fact is that unless you are well-established at this point, you are not going to be that well read; breaking into the market is successively harder as more and more people come on-line.

Which is why perhaps, outside of a select few, the marquee bloggers are white men, probably somewhere between 35-40. Certainly at the DNC this was true. And events like BloggerCon tend to look like the white men who sit in Congress, or sit in the media booths. All of which tends to remind me of the myth in America that everyone can make it, everyone can participate, there is no need for affirmative action, etc... If all this is true, why is the on-line and off-line world still white like Casper. But do not look for discussions of "race" on the blogs; we are a color-blind blogosphere.

Ain't it funny how big bloggers become big media?

Now connect this to Professor Eric Muller's recent remarks:

Take, for example, the guys at Powerline. They have (rightly) been bragging about the holes they punched in the CBS memos. Yet back in mid-August, they heaped praise on [Michelle] Malkin's book ["In Defense Of Internment"] without so much as noting that the blogosphere was tearing the book to pieces. (Any comments, Powerline guys, about Malkin's failure to drive a few miles to the National Archives to look at the file that contained the truth about the man she compares to Mohammad Atta in her book? Does that remind them at all of the lame research done by a certain network news program?) Now, they did note (as though this were something only marginally relevant) that they found the book's thesis unpersuasive. But that didn't stop them from giving the book a rave, or from giving Malkin a book promo spot on their Northern Alliance radio show, where they report that they found her "delightful."


I know a double standard when I see one.

So folks, these heady days of blogospheric triumphalism are not really about the victory of truth; they're about partisanship. Before the blogosphere's "truth squads" can tell you whether a claim about history is false, fraudulent, and deserving of condemnation, first they need to know whose team the claim's proponent is on. (And this is undoubtedly true as you approach both political poles of the blogosphere.)

Big bloggers == Big Media.

But this post will merely vanish into the ether too. Sigh ...

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on September 21, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
September 20, 2004

CBS and Dan Rather admit forged memos, blogs, and The Pajama Game

Statements From CBS News and Dan Rather

CBS News Acknowledges That, Based on Subsequent Reporting on Questions About Documents, It Cannot Prove They are Authentic and, Therefore, They Should Not Have Been Used in the '60 Minutes Wednesday' Report

Now, compare (via iblog):

VIDEO OF JONATHAN KLEIN [FORMER CBS NEWS EXECUTIVE]: It's an important moment, you couldn't have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of checks and balances, and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas, writing what he thinks.

With Washington Post: In Rush to Air, CBS Quashed Memo Worries:

But in separate phone calls to [60 Minutes producer Mary] Mapes that day, two of the network's outside experts tried to stop the journalistic train, or at least slow it down.

Linda James said she "cautioned" CBS "if they ran it, that the problems I saw, that other document examiners would see. It just wasn't ready. The package wasn't ready. It didn't meet authenticating [standards]. To go at that stage, I just couldn't imagine."

Emily Will said she called the network that Tuesday and repeated her objections as strongly as possible. "If you air the program on Wednesday," she recalled saying, "on Thursday you're going to have hundreds of document examiners raising the same questions."

There's now an outpouring of blather, because this all makes for a good story and talk-fodder: David vs. Goliath, Revolution vs. Dinosaur, New vs. Old Grassroots vs Established, CYBERSPACE!

But there's no popularity and links and echoing to be had in pointing out the simple fact that the problem is not that CBS didn't have the relevant information, but rather they just didn't want to hear it.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo | on September 20, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups

Military censors, CNN casualty page

Eric Umansky reports on the the site being censorware'd, along with a CNN casualty page (thanks, Lis).

As a non-echo aspect for this post, I'll point out that some echoing of his report has elided a subtle aspect. It's clear in his original post that the banning message "Your request was denied because of its content categorization: "Extreme;Politics/Religion"" (that's SmartFilter) refers to a different, earlier, example of banning "The Memory Hole". But that message doesn't necessarily apply to the current incident - no specific messages are cited.

A spokesman's response (Captain Chris Karns) indicates this banning is apparently intentional, not "collateral damage".

[Note to people who aren't my regular blog-readers - I've done extensive censorware investigations but lack of support/legal risk drove me to quit and stop research. ]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on September 20, 2004 01:51 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
September 18, 2004

Google Chinese News Censorship

[An echo, but I don't think this has been publicized much yet]

Google Chinese news censorship demonstrated(Pic)

(Sept. 18, 2004)2004 Sep. 16, Bill Xia, Dynamic Internet Technology Inc.

On Sept. 15, 2004, a DynaWeb volunteer reported that Google's Chinese news returned different results depending whether the search was conducted in China or in the U.S. Today, we were able to confirm this report through proxies in China. Search results inside China do not contain news from blocked sites such as (


On the first page, any entry from or are not shown when searching with a proxy inside China.

[This appears accurate. They give instructions in the article for reproducing the censorship. Though the examples involve keywords in Chinese, which makes it difficult to understand for non-Chinese speakers]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on September 18, 2004 12:35 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
September 17, 2004

CBS Memos links page with forgery evidence references

I've created a CBS Memos resources page, at

As I put it on that page:

Disclaimer - this page is not meant to be objective or comprehensive. It is a compilation of resources intended for my use in convincing people who do not believe the memos are forged. Transparency: I'm a Kerry supporter, respect Dan Rather personally, dislike many journalistic behaviors, believe the memos are forged beyond a reasonable doubt, though the content likely is true.

I've collected a bunch of relevant links, that I want to use to show people for evidence, since all the blog posts can be hard to follow. So I figured that if I put it all on one page, it'd be easier to have it handy.

Again, anyone who does not think at this point that the memos are forged, past any possible fair dispute, should read the evidence.

"A fact is something so well affirmed that it would be perverse to withhold assent" - Stephen Jay Gould

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in politics | on September 17, 2004 09:28 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
September 14, 2004

Journalism, standards, power, and the CBS / 60 minutes documents scandal

Ernest Miller writes

The credibility and integrity of anyone directly involved in this CBS story is lost, I believe. They have been complicit in the stonewall as well as tarring the integrity of those who pointed out discrepancies in their reporting. ...
Furthermore, the credibility and integrity of every other journalist at CBS News is in question. ...
Moreover, the entire journalistic profession is threatened by the actions of a rogue CBS. ...
I am serious when I say that this has become a crisis for journalism.

Sadly, I think "the crisis in journalism" is an evergreen topic, right up there with "the trouble with kids today" and "the negativity of political campaigning". The forged memos events are a "scandal". Not a "crisis".

What we have here is akin to the story of the mugger whose target turns out to be a heavyweight boxer, or a police beating caught on national TV. It's extremely embarrassing for the particular individuals involved, possibly even career-ending for them. But the systematic problem (crime, corruption) doesn't change.

Journalism, as a profession, is a very arrogant and abusive institution (no offense to any of my journalist-friends reading this - the fact that you're my friend means you're an exception to the rule :-)). Organizationally, when covering stories, there's a very small number of covered people who are generally granted the minimum of fairness - these are, e.g. people in political power. They aren't granted this respect out of the kindness of the journalist's heart. But rather, because those people have the power to fight back. Anyone else outside the magic circle is fair game for just about any abuse, character-assassination, lies, "being used", and so on.

It's like being a "made member" of the Mafia. That wiseguy status doesn't mean you can't be killed. It just means there's some due process, some consultation, before the decision can be undertaken within the organization to kill you.

Part of the "standards" argument between journalists and non-journalists, is actually about who belongs in this magic circle of respect. Journalists are passionately concerned about this topic, since their professional lives depend on it. Who is prey, and who is a pack-member? It's similar to the Mafia rules about who you can steal from. In this case, a don tried to ripoff a godfather. Bad move. Very bad move. Someone is going to hurt for it. But after the dust settles, nothing will change.

Remember, if you're not at least connected, and a journalist does a hit-job on you, then what you hear (if you are so lucky to even get a reply) is generally just:

1) "We stand by our story"

2) A variant of: we're the journalists and you're not (and you're not objective)

Sound familiar? Now, the understandable anger generated at this cavalier treatment typically leads to all sort of blather about emergent revolutions, power to the working class, routing around Big Media, etc. But we just get a new boss in place of the old boss.

And it doesn't change because the structure of the situation doesn't change, the exponential distribution of power. There are those who have a great deal of power, and those who have much less power, and generally nobody cares when the powerful abuse the powerless.

Ernest, look at an example within our "community", recall how few consequences there have been for Slashdot "journalist" Michael Sims' domain hijacking of the original Censorware Project website. Attorney-member Jonathan Wallace wrote (emphasis added)

I was naively astonished by [the reactions of moral equivalence]. If the ACLU's webmaster had trashed the organization's site, I think everyone would pretty well recognize he was a Bad Character and Not To Be Trusted. As much more minor players, despite the significant contributions we had made in revealing what censorware actually blocked, no-one could be bothered to take a stand for us. There was nothing to be gained.

And Bennett Haselton (Peacefire) said (not me)

The fact that Slashdot hired Michael should be deeply embarrassing to them, ... But Slashdot is apparently too deeply wedded that decision to reconsider, and comments from [Michael Sims' direct supervisor] have been more of the same along the lines of "They should work out their differences" ...

Now, note the journalistic aspect here. All along, I've maintained various actions can be explained from pure power. The most public trivializing, sneering, dismissive remark came exactly from the person within Slashdot who had the most professional journalism experience, and was hired specifically for that sort of background. And rationally, it made complete sense in terms of his job. Whatever he thought in private, whatever was morally right or wrong, in public he made a calculation as to whether the outsiders had any power, merited any respect. And if not, protect the insider (see above, no support as "There was nothing to be gained").

And it didn't matter at all.

So, CBS will fire someone, find a scapegoat (I suspect the internal argument there right now is whether it's going to be Dan Rather himself, or the story's producer, or whether they can get away with just a flunky). The basic line will then be that the scandal is "old news", changes have been made, all is right in the world again. They will say "We've moved on, and so should you". And nothing will change. Since they reach the same large number of people they did beforehand, who have the same small concern for accuracy they did beforehand.

"Everything you read in newspapers is absolutely true, except for the rare story of which you happen to have first-hand knowledge." - Erwin Knoll

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo | on September 14, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
September 13, 2004

CBS (60 Minutes) Forged Memos Comparison Evidence

[Update - see my CBS Memos page]

After continuing to think about the 60 Minutes / forged memo issue this weekend, and reading some of the responses which talk about the required typewriters perhaps being available at the time, I did some contemporaneous document comparisons. Whether or not such a typewriter could exist in theory, it seems Bush's Air Force base definitely didn't have one!

The directory has a cache of documents involving Bush from that base and time period. They are glaringly different in typography and format.

Look at the various base memos, especially 1972 and 1973. There's no proportional spacing (and the printing seems blockier). I don't see any superscripts in base memos at all, much less small-font superscripts.

For example, compare:


Note that no base memo date ever begins with a zero (the CBS memos have dates starting with zero).

Picking up on an item from the military critics, the base memo signature format is (always left-margin)

name, rank, TexANG


rank, TexANG

So the memo signature is always, for example


I don't see any exceptions.

The suspect memos have (tabbed over to right-hand side)

Lt. Colonel


Lt. Colonel

No "TexANG". The "TexANG" always appears in the base memos. Also note "Lt Col" vs "Lt. Colonel".

Observe the CBS memos have a space in "147 th" or "9921 st". The base memos don't have spaces (e.g. "147th"). And the space makes sense as a clumsy way of avoiding the MS WORD auto-superscripting.

Particularly interesting are the files and

This is obviously a paired original and an official retyped copy. Compare the thick, monospaced, no-superscript, base memos, to the clean, proportionally-spaced, pretty-superscript CBS memos, e.g. - even at low resolution, it's dramatically different.

The modern word-processor characteristics of those memos don't appear in any of the base memos, and the format details seem too different. I'd put this as beyond a reasonable doubt that the CBS memos are forged.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in politics | on September 13, 2004 01:11 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
September 12, 2004

More concerning story that 60 Minutes documents on Bush may be fake

I continue to find the CBS fake? memos story absolutely fascinating, from all sorts of angles. It's also a reminder as to why I'm of the scientist mindset and not a politician. This incident covers all sorts of issues:

Who do you trust? Which evidence do you believe? How do you find the truth amid a minefield of conflicting partisan claims and paid liars? Remember, in general, I believe there is objective truth, and that it matters deeply (which is why I'm so bad at politics :-().

If someone tells a blatant lie, then blows smoke about the lie (deny, deny, deny), do they automatically win at least halfway? (Petty bickering! Old news! Food fight! - on and on). The trivial answer is to ignore the problem, and that then favors the dishonest. Note truth is not in the middle - the documents can't be a little bit forged.

To me, people who say the forged document analysis is all about typographic trivia, are like someone who dismisses fingerprints as inconsequential grease-spots : What's all this about patterns in dirty smudges? How can we be expected to deprive someone of liberty, or even their life, based on some geek mutterings about whirls and ridges? Wow, those techs are really concerned with nonsense, building up a huge features database for comparison and arguing over whether something is a good match - what nerds! (Real men determine truth by running at each other with spears on horseback).

I was shocked that Dan Rather's defense compared the small-font superscript 'th' of the 1973 forged? memo with something like the obviously different 'th-bar' character of the service record (see second line). In fact, the latter shows what a custom-key really does look like. It's on the same line (i.e. not raised), and has a bar underneath for apparent typographic emphasis. The memo printing is extremely different. But what is truth ...

I find this under-linked (and not right-wing) source interesting:

For those who want my opinion...the documents appear to be done in Word, and then copied repeatedly to make them "fuzzy". They use features that were not available on office typewriters the 1970s, specifically the combination of proportional spacing with superscript font. The IBM Executive has proportional spacing, but used fixed type bars. The Selectric has changeable type elements, but fixed spacing (some models could be selected at 10 or 12 pitch, but that's all). The Selectric Composer was not an office typewriter, but apparently did use proportional spacing. These were very expensive machines, used by printing offices, not administrative offices.

Also note:

Update: Documents May Be Forgeries 09.10.2004

Serious questions have been raised about the authenticity of four documents that CBS News said it had obtained from the personal files of Bush's former squadron commander in the Texas Air National Guard. We are removing reference to them in our September. 8 article on the "Texans for Truth" ad until these questions are settled to our satisfaction.

So it's not just a "freeper/wingnut" issue.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in politics | on September 12, 2004 12:35 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
September 10, 2004

Forged memos humorous conspiracy theory

I've been following the 60 Minutes/ forged memos story, where purported memos about Bush's National Guard time seem to have been forged. Now, for all the upcoming babble about blog-power, the exposure is not anything which depends on an emergent open-origin smart-rabble social-underwear wikimob revolution. The first halfway-decent historical expert who looks at the documents (and it does depend on having access to the reproduced documents), will say "What in the world is a small-font superscript 'th' doing in a supposedly typewritten memo from 1973?". And indeed, how did such documents make their way to be a story? I couldn't help thinking ...

[Warning: humor humor humor, not completely serious, tongue-in-cheek]

It's very odd, in that it all seems to be a forged presentation of believed-true information. Now, let's assume that 60 Minutes is not full of complete and total idiots. They play in the big leagues. Yes, they slant things. But it's generally by journalistic "rules," which say you're allowed to lie through your teeth on the meaning, as long as you spell the names right. Assume they checked something. It looks like they (CBS) checked the information:

A senior CBS official, who asked not to be named because CBS managers did not want to go beyond their official statement, named one of the network's sources as retired Maj. Gen. Bobby Hodges, the immediate superior of the documents' alleged author, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian. He said that a CBS reporter read the documents to Hodges over the phone, and that Hodges replied that "these are the things that Killian had expressed to me at the time."

"These documents represent what Killian not only was putting in memoranda, but was telling other people," the CBS News official said.

The official said the network regarded Hodges' comments as "the trump card" on the question of authenticity, as he is a Republican who acknowledged not wanting to hurt Bush.

Thus CBS has a Major General who will back them. They ask him if the information is true, he confirms. Thus, in their mind, they've got it nailed. They wouldn't then send him the specific documents to read, he's a busy man. Then CBS doesn't go get a historical expert, since again in their mind, they have validation.

[Update: This aspect might get analysis at Jay Rosen's Pressthink]

They run the story. The White House has to have examined the documents immediately (this is 60 Minutes!). They then know the documents are forged. Were the information false, they'd scream. But since the information is true, they say nothing, and let the reaction develop. The discrediting of the documents discredits the true information.

So ... so ... so ... Who benefits?

The Bush campaign. Enormously. Tremendously


60 Minutes/CBS News/Dan Rather ... etc. gets a huge black eye.

The true information will then be forever tainted by the forged documents.

The Kerry campaign will get slammed by the backlash.

All future revelations about Bush's guard service will be tainted in the public's mind.

Conclusion: Karl Rove (the Bush Campaign) is one Machiavellian man. They planted the forged documents themselves.

[Reminder: humor, not completely serious, tongue-in-cheek ... I think]

[Update: See more serious thoughts of mine at the post CBS (60 Minutes) Forged Memos Comparison Evidence]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in politics | on September 10, 2004 09:27 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (3) | Followups
September 07, 2004

Update on Greplaw Interview, changes and some aftermath

Peter Junger has a long post, More on the Greplaw Case, describing the latest updates, and how he approaches the whole topic:

.... the Greplaw Archive was again redacted to remove both Seth Finkelstein's explanation of what the Censorware Project was, and what happened to it, and the editorial insertions that were made in response to what [Mike] Godwin now calls ``moral suasion.'' The following statement has been inserted in the Greplaw archive in place of the removed material:

[This interview has been altered from its original format. Two paragraphs in the original interview have been redacted as of September 5, 2004.]

Note, again, I've mirrored it, and so has he (though I "accepted" the above official change).

Myself, I'm more focused on what I think of as the mathematics, which can be seen in this portion:

Shortly thereafter I found myself in correspondence with the director of the Berkman center and finally we spoke by telephone about this matter. It was clear throughout this correspondence and conversation that the director of the Berkman center felt that Greplaw and the Berkman center had been threatened with litigation, and not only by my comments about the possibility of Seth suing them.

Naturally, being caught in the middle of a dispute to which he was not a party, he regretted that the matter had arisen and also regretted the particular procedures that had been adopted in the case. It was also quite clear that he regretted the unfair way that Seth had been treated.

I view this as basically an example of "only have to be lucky once". Since there's no reputation-cost to making the threats, such a lawyer can keep attacking until one hits (and to add insult to injury, the outcome will be deemed my fault, or at the very best, a moral equivalence). Again, I appreciate the support messages. But, remember, lucky once ...

I'll probably never be able to fully convey to people that it's not about a flame-war. Rather, the problem is being under-powered and over-matched and hence being driven to quit. It's sad, unpleasant, and depressing to write. But this situation overall has been another turning-point for me.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on September 07, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
September 03, 2004

John Young cypherpunk poetry (about Greplaw Interview discussion)

John Young, the cypherpunk poet wrote a poem (posted to a mailing list) about the fallout and arguments from Mike Godwin's actions and my Greplaw Interview. I found it amusing enough to repost, with a rough English translation of the poetry (what other blogs have, not merely cypherpunk poetry, but annotated cypherpunk poetry?)

The basic idea of the poem is John Young saying he enjoys a good flame-war, so people calling on me and Mike Godwin to be nice to each other should just shut-up, as flames are much more laudable (note the poetry often acts to obscure an idea which would be very debatable if stated in clear prose).

According to wise ones here Seth and Mike have become hollow versions of their formerly entertaining personas, Seth and Mike [Godwin] are now shells of their former flamer selves
or appear to have transmogrified into silly pretenders of being more mature (spit) and above the fray (puke), they've become old and boring, the fuddy-duddies
with both issuing unbelievable condescensions as if unctioning vapidly, vacuously for the record (gag) trying to appear dignified as if they care about their image
rather than continue in their raw-meated, net-loosened all too long professional-career tied-tongues.instead of the glorious flaming they'd do when freed from the constraints of appearing "professional"
Hardly worth reading, these calls for forgetting the audacious, literary, eloquent enviable Seth and Mike, good reading to be reminded of what they did and can again do best: Forgive-and-forget is dull, give me a good flame-war
spout the hardly spitten out loud in public, without calculated beforehand and afterhand apologies,speak your mind without thinking about it
no shading the lingo for impressing judgmental argumentators and writ-job dispensers and reputation mark-uppers,not being sensitive for the sake of libel or people who care about reputation
no fearing of public resource squandering litigation (loogey), or being sued
no hoping, angling for erasure, faint-hearted and auto-second-guessed,or taking back what you said
of passionate outbursts --  
shit, bloviated judges do that to set the record straight (rip-tongues)Pompous judges take-back what they say
after Janusing their inchoacies at decrypting-genius stenographers.after altering their blather when it's figured-out by court reporters
Out damn decorum, Don't give a damn
keep that the poker-face lying recordabout what was said
in monocular penitentiary of justicican halls[something about one-eyed (connecting to poker-face), imprisonment - I can't translate this line, particularly "justicican"]
where pantopticonism terrifies self-over-correcting wutzes.where everything-being-seen scares fussy wimps.
Up incorrigibles,Praise the "unreasonable",
beyond-median-spiritedly, those who are ill-tempered and
wine-driven-oracular mostso.uninhibited truth-tellers, praise them the most.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on September 03, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2) | Followups
September 02, 2004

Greplaw Interview follow-up

The Greplaw Interview's situation has brought me some more supporters. I'll just do some links.

Peter Junger also mirrored it and wrote of a similar experience, and posted Another Reaction to Greplaw's Antics (written by Jonathan Wallace).

Derek Slater wrote of SethF, and a Gripe with Greplaw

Greplaw of course is not going to talk about specifics of what happened, but one can make a good guess.

Thanks much to all.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on September 02, 2004 12:23 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
September 01, 2004

Seth Finkelstein Greplaw Interview

Seth Finkelstein Greplaw Interview

[Now mirrored on my site. For explanation as to why, see:]

Peter Junger: Redoing What's Done

A to my mind horrible example--perhaps only because I have a couple of degrees from Harvard and like to believe that it would not condone such unfairness and stupidity, or at least not condone such stupidity--is the recent antics of the editors of a publication, or, as it says in its masthead, ``production,'' of the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School, called, in an apparent effort to repel anyone who might not be familiar with the names of Unix utilities,


When Seth complained to the editors of Greplaw and to the authorities at the Berkman center he was met with the ``Who me?'' and the `There Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens'' defenses. ...

[Note my chance of ever having a Harvard Berkman Center Fellowship is likely now zero. :-(. So, please, no more "advice" suggesting that.]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism , website | on September 01, 2004 04:31 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups