We see that Zaman, which has consistently published one-sided, misleading, and often downright wrong articles on the Sledgehammer case, has opened its English-language pages to Emre Uslu, the Taraf columnist. Uslu has recently written a series of columns on the case, pointing to what he thinks is evidence which contradicts our assertion that the CDs containing the Sledgehammer coup documents are fabricated.
For those unfamiliar about the case, the central contention in the Sledgehammer indictment is that the CDs in question are authentic, original CDs that were produced in the 1st Army back in 2003. We have documented in this blog and our book that these CDs contain information from years beyond 2003 – names that companies, hospitals, NGOs, military units, and so on acquired in subsequent years – that could not possibly have been known in 2003. Therefore it is clear that the metadata on the CDs have been tampered to make the dates and the authors of the documents they contain look like genuine military documents prepared in 2002-2003.
No-one has so far been able to produce a coherent explanation that would account for the anachronisms we have identified. So clear and incontrovertible are the anachronisms that it is impossible to deny them. There does not seem to be any other explanation for them at this point than the obvious one: the Sledgehammer CDs were manufactured not in 2003 in the 1st Army, but by unknown perpetrators much later (most probably in 2009) with the express purpose of framing nearly 200 military officers for crimes they did not commit.
Those that continue to claim the CDs are authentic — writers in Zaman and Taraf in particular — simply ignore this central contradiction, effectively looking the other way so they won’t notice the elephant in the room. Emre Uslu’s case is particularly interesting because he is actually on record as agreeing with us that the information on the CDs appear to have been “updated.” We don’t know how he can square this with his contention that the CDs are authentic (that is, produced in 2003 by 1st Army officers) because he won’t tell us.
(For the technically minded, the CDs were produced in one session, back in 2003 if the metadata are to be believed. The names on all the documents – both in the metadata and in the actual files themselves – belong to officers that served back in 2003. Some have argued that the coup documents are genuine, but were updated over time. But it is not at all clear why the documents and the CDs would have been subsequently backdated and their authors’ names replaced by names of officers serving back in 2003. Any way one looks at it, it is clear that the CDs have been tampered with.)
Instead, Uslu accuses us of failing to respond to a charge he has made recently in Taraf, namely that the handwriting on the two CDs containing the Sledgehammer documents (CD no. 11 and 17) belongs to Suha Tanyeri, an officer who served in the 1st Army in 2003. We actually did respond to this, but we gave Uslu’s claim no more space than it needed given the weakness of the evidence on which it is based.
Consider the facts. The handwriting sample on the fake CDs consists of a grand total of 10 (ten!) characters. (One of the CDs has “Or.K.na” on it, the other “K. özel”.) Moreover, all Uslu has are the photos of the CDs, not the CDs themselves. That Uslu or any forensic expert can claim to make a positive and definite identification using just a handful of letters on a photograph is simply ludicrous. We find it incredible that Uslu – trained as a police officer himself – would take this “evidence” so seriously and treat it as if it were conclusive. Let us add that Uslu’s claim does not appear in the nearly-1,000 page long indictment, even though the prosecutors have gone to great (and sometimes absurd) lengths to prove that the defendants are guilty.
Uslu says that he has confirmed his thesis with a handwriting expert. However, Uslu inexplicably (and inexcusably) refuses to name the expert he consulted. (We and a journalist have independently asked.) It is beyond us why we should give much credence to an unnamed expert when commonsense tells us that an examination based on a few letters on a photo cannot be considered meaningful.
The daily Zaman has predictably run with Uslu’s allegation, and in a separate story they do provide the name of an “expert” who has apparently corroborated the handwriting identification. We have no idea who this expert is. He seems to have left absolutely no trace on the Internet – an amazing feat in today’s world for any professional. So we have no clue to his identity, professional credentials, or institutional affiliation. We have learned from bitter experience that everything that Zaman writes on the Sledgehammer case has to be treated as suspect unless confirmed through credible sources.
Uslu further asks why, if the handwriting is a fake (as we surmise), the perpetrators would have chosen to write on the CDs and try to imitate Tanyeri’s handwriting. Once again, we did respond to this question, which we think has an obvious answer. The fake CDs were delivered to the police along with others that appear to be genuine. All those other CDs have handwriting on them. Failure to label the fake ones would have made them look different and suspicious. For all we know, the fraudsters may have replaced two authentic CDs in the batch with two fake ones, and simply copied the handwriting on the original ones onto the fake ones.
Why copy Tanyeri’s handwriting? There is potentially a good explanation for this as well. The documents leaked from the 1st Army headquarters – the authentic ones, that is – happen to contain a notebook with pages of Tanyeri’s (actual) handwriting on it. This provides a rich source of raw material for the perpetrators to draw on for purposes of imitation. The only other samples of handwriting in their possession consist of the labels on the other CDs – which are mere snippets. Perhaps the “handwriting” on the fake CDs was produced electronically through machine copying specific parts of text in Tanyeri’s notebooks.
Besides, it is astounding to think, as Uslu apparently does, that the onus is on us to explain every detail of what the perpetrators did and why, when the evidence of fabrication is so clear-cut. Once the police and the prosecutors turn their attention to the fabrication and apprehend the true culprits in the matter, Uslu can satisfy his curiosity by asking them the question directly.
Wouldn’t it be possible to resolve at least some of these questions about the source of the handwriting on the fake CDs by consulting independent experts? Yes, but here is the thing. The court will not give the defense even copies of the pictures of the CDs, let alone allow the originals to be examined. Yes, you are reading this right. Despite repeated requests, the court has ruled that the defense is not entitled to have even pictures of the CDs! Zaman and Uslu can somehow have access to these photos, and consult their own “experts.” But not the defense.
Such is the state of Turkish justice and (and of journalism) at the moment.
UPDATE (April 18, 2012): The pictures of the CDs were eventually provided to the defense at the end of April 2011. Two forensic analyses — one by an American expert — subsequently confirmed what we had suspected, namely that the “handwriting” on the incriminating CDs were in fact forgeries, created by machine-copying individual letters from Tanyeri’s notebook. (Here is the American report, and here are further details in on the forgery in Turkish.) Emre Uslu, characteristically, has now gone back to arguing that the CDs are not originals from 2003, but were “updated.”