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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Catch Me In Two Days

New York Post:

Ex-forger Frank Abagnale — played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2002 Steven Spielberg movie "Catch Me If You Can" — scoffed: "If my forgeries looked as bad as the CBS documents, it would have been, 'Catch Me In Two Days.' "
This of course leads to the interesting question of what would have happened if a new Frank Abagnale had been the one to forge these documents, or even if the forger had just bothered to use an IBM selectric rather than a computer for his forgery. Sure, there would have been some questions about abbreviations and signature formats and what not flying around the blogosphere, but this types of allegations would have had no merit and probably wouldn't even have been commented on by any major blogs, let alone media sources. With a minimum effort, the forger could have gotten away clean. Couple this with the fact the CBS knew, or should have known, that the documents may not have been legitimate. Obviously it is possible, and as this story has shown easy, to forge documents. The best defense against this is a good investigation into the chain of custody of these documents and finding corroborative evidence of the documents contents. CBS of course claims it has done this, and on the last part at least, still stand by the idea that the story they told was true, although the documents may be false. We don't know anything about CBS's investigation in the chain of custody of the documents. Unless they reveal their sources we never will. We do know that the Killian family members disputed the documents before 60 minutes aired. We know that Hodges, on of CBS's primary sources for proving that the documents accurately reflected Killian's beliefs now claims he was deceived by CBS. We can also infer, based on CBS's decision to show the documents, even in light of doubts about their authenticity, that CBS felt that the story they were trying to tell was not strong enough to stand without the documents, or at least would have less impact. What does this mean for the future? It is obvious that we cannot necessarily trust documents on their own as they could easily be forged. It is equally obvious that at least one network news source cannot be trusted to perform the minimum steps to confirm documents that they air and use to advance news stories. What all this will end up meaning for the reliability of our news sources has yet to be seen, but it will be very interesting to watch. Update: Patterico has a good round-up of what CBS knew and when they knew it.


Blogger Cubicle said...

" CBS knew, or should have known"

come one lets dance on the grave of dan rather and CBS.

i am just kidding, i am not convinced that dan rather knew these were fakes, but i am convinced that someone should have stopped this before it went public.

9/15/2004 05:20:00 PM  

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