APPROVED FOR4 CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM
TITLE: Laboratory Analysis Of Suspect Documents
AUTHOR: James Van Stappen
VOLUME: 4 ISSUE: Summer
A collection ol orllclos on Ihe historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ot intelligence.
All statements of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of
the authors They do noi necessarily reflect official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency or any othei US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations.
Some o/ the possibilities,and results oj submitting written materials toby test tube and
LABORATORY ANALYSIS OF SUSPECT DOCUMENTS James Van Stappen
Seven or eight years ago an mteUigence oxncer cameossession, under circumstances which aroused histonal ardor,mall scrap of nolepaper bearing only an addressery common first name scribbled underneath it. For two years he persisted to trying to Identify thef <hu note, collecting handwriting specimensun-ber of likely places and submitting them for laboratoryartson. Some of them matched the original. Thet venue of these marked the writer's trail through several trouble-ridden countries, but none identified him. ack In bis own country, the traveler wrote to one of theuseful acquaintances be bad made on the trip, and this correspondent was careless enough to let the letter fall into our Intelligence officer's hands. Verified as the same handwriting, Itomplete name and borneearch of visa records and other materials on file nowhe true Identity of the writer, bis cover story, background, and even photographs of him. Beoviet intelligencear, who since then, thanks to this Identification, haskept us informed by his presence of certain activities of bis organization.
For twelve years, beginning during World War JJ, an agent in Europe bad provided generous and significant reports from around and behind the iron curtain. Re had apparently builtetwork of Informants extending deep Into the denied areas. Butharp-eyed postal Intelligence officeran Incorrect postal cachet on one of bis envelopes, and, bis whole filedd reports was therefore brought to tbe questioned document laboratory, analysis showed that the
reports were written by eight different typewriters, which might correspond to eight diflefent informants; butre-pdrts from widely separated places had been produced on the same day by the same machine, and tbe principal agent's own correspondence turned out to hare been written on one or another of the typewriters supposedly used by his secretbehind the curtain. It wasrude paper mill, but careless enough to get caught, finally.
ime when one of the countries that arc pulled between East and West was negotiatingremendous Western loan, one of Its pro-US.ersonagewell known,etter typed on blue stationeryample of the Communist blandishments which he was trying to resist. An awkward signature prompted theof this letter to the questioned document laboratory. Tbe signature was found to berude attempt at handwriting disguise, executed in American-made fountain-pen Ink. Waterman's Blue Black. The blue watermarkedcould have been bought only In Australia or Newon the other side of the world from the purportedwriter. Moreover, the Communist's letter was typed on thenderwood Standard rebuilt after lthis Friend of America had some time before used to address an envelope toile of miscellaneousour Friend had turned over to ui In the past was now examined, and all were found to be forgeries. Uponbe admitted bis duplicity and begged not to be exposed.
These are three of the more startling questioned document cases ofdd on file, some of tbem not worth to anyone the paper they were written on. some of Internationa] consequence. They include analyses of propaganda leaflets which led to the very presses that printed them. Theyrestorations of charred documents, erased andwritings, carbon paper impressions, and writingson sheets of paper underneath the ones used by the writer. They Include the investigaUoarank letters and of forgeries using both Dulles brothers* names. They Include examinations of credentials, complementing the work of the
identity document analyst'; In one, outstanding case bhostile" agent's passport was found to haveble errors in make-up.omplete physical analysisIts probable area ot originonsiderable amount of information on adversary capabilities and modus operandi In agent documentation.
Of the tell-tale manifestations by which any mtelligence operation necessarily runs tbe risk of exposing Itself,constitute one of the most rewarding to theBeing as theyermanent, pbyslcal item, they are devoid of the human foibles which so often bearobservation, bad Judgment, opinionearsay. Insincerity, malice. Used to support duplicity,ften, under expert analysts, tell the truth, and inases much more, not only exposing the particular operation that occasioned them but supplying mtelligence ofsignificance. By laboratory examination it may beto develop the complete text of indented or otherwritings, establish tbe validityocument, detect any alterations or erasures, identify the author by analysis of the handwriting or typewriting, determine the kind, specific type, origin, and approximate age of the paper and Ink used, and find the Und, specific type, and origin of the writing
Analytit of Paper
ocument Is legally defined as being of anyon which marks may be Inscribed, including gravestones andecentilver goblet engraved with Joseftrue signature, the material used for most documents Is of course paper. The laboratory analysis of paper must take Into account Its color and opacity, the size of the sheet.eight and thickness. Its fiber content, the direction ofrain, the finish, and the watermark. Comparison inespects with exhaustive files of domestic and foreigntock samples serves to identify most papers. If the paperommon, low-grade type, it win yield no clues to theof the document except perhaps his area of operation.
'escription of this field sec David v. Brlgane'sBona TUt orn Studies IV. yjat
But It Itarer and more expensive one, with few dealers*
and retail outlets, if"rruifbe possible to trace througH'Hhese
the limited number of people who had access tonique
may be, and In actual cases has been, tracedingle i
individual The secret mar kings that identify paper used by I
governments, banks, and other official organizations are also
many of them on file along with tbe paper stocks, as an aid I
in checking the authenticity of official documents.
It can be establishedocument is forged by showing that its paper Is not as old as its purported date. Sometimes the age of the paper can be determined from Its composition or watermark, by referringile of manufacturers'ulas and watermarks in use at different dates. Moret Is necessary to measure tbe effects of age on itsontent and color, talcing into consideration the type ofn tbe paper and the climatic conditions under which Ittored. Using chemical reagentsintometer ornstrument for gauging shades of color, the expert can usually determine the approximate age of the paper. If the paper has been artificiallyractice forgers often try, the age test will not be valid; but the false aging can often beand tbe document thusorgery.
Analysis of Inks
The Identification of an ink is begun by determining the type to which It belongs. The three chief types In use today are gallolannic (tbe mosthromic, and anihn. Others are China ink, the colored vegetable-dyeew dark ones like those made from wolfram and vanadium, and those for special appUcahon as for mimeograph and stamp pads. Chemical differences enable tbe laboratory to identify these types.
The age of the Ink, which has the same bearing as paper age on the validityocument, may sometimes be determined through data on file regarding changes to the manufacturers' formulas. Waterman, for example, has changed formula four times In ten years, soample of Waterman's may often be associatedarticular period ofolor. Permanent Inksemporary dye which soon fades, an Iron and sulphur corn'pound. iOT weak acid. The action of the acid, oxygen, and humidity produces
ark color and theneriod ollow fadingeak slain. By using chemical reagents, the age of the ink can be approximated by comparing its color, taking into consideration the color of the paper, with standard color charts. If ink has been artificially aged the age test Isbut the Induced aging itself is sometimes detectable.
troke of ink writing is magnified fifteen or more times, Wlwo tracks'ntfae^'ttia'pouft cftttie pen stand outage much clearer than the line of Ink between them. If the pen Is new, the width of these tracks, compared with standard-brand widths shown in test charts, sometimes serves to identify the type of pen.ell-worn pen has been used, the difference in width and appearance between the two tracks usually indicates whether the user is rights or left-handed.en is worn badly enough. It may leave regular, easily identified scratches which provide positive Identification of the very pen itself. The fact that most people fill their fountain pens with different kinds of ink at different times may also serve to Identify an individual pen through the unique combination of Inks in it.
The ball-point pen Is more easily Identified than an ordinary one. Itnique Ink. therepecific width of the ball point for each brand, and the surface of the ball, smooth aa It may seem to the unaided eye. Is really full of scratches whichattern on thepen's own fingerprints. Any non-standard type of pen is the more readily identified because of its scarcity.
ocument is written In pencil or crayon, the laboratory may be able to determine the formula of the material and through file comparisons perhaps Identify the manufacturer. The age of pencil or crayon writing can be determined only as to whether it was done within the last ten or fifteennique or unusual pencil or crayon may possibly be traced to the Individual who used it. Identification of Handwriting
Handwriting, like other physical acts performed by adults. Is characteristic of the individual writer; there is probably no act more characteristic of an adult than his writing. It can
therefore be used for rata ton tineaof theluunTown^ ritings. This comparisonatter not only ol letter form, but also of many other characteristics, among themmuscular habits, pen position, line quality, shadingproportion, connections, spacing, andufficient number of similarities are foundnown handwriting and the questioned specimen, with nowhich cannot reasonably be accounted for. ite concluded that both were written by the same person. erson, handwriting Is developed by constantver the years until It becomes second nature to him. aof deeply Ingrained habits. The obstacles whicha forgerlsgulser of bis own writing are therefore manifold and great. It is practically impossibleriter to divorce hlxoself from certain Inherent characteristicsIn pressure points, pen lifts, the shading of strokes etc of which he is not even aware. In order to succeedorgery he needs not only to throw off his own characteristics but to assume the inherent characteristics manifested to another person's writing,irtual impossibility. Handwriting comparison, however, should not be attempted by an amateur Its most difficult aspect is evaluating the weight to be given each of the various distinguishing characteristics. TypwapMcal Identification.
The Identification of typewriting is similarly basedufficient combination of peculiar characteristics. Some of the more outstanding of these characteristics are the defects In type faces, the design of the type, misalignment due totvpe bars, and uneven printing due to twisted type faces. The make and modelypewriter can be determined
sed typewriter can
be todivlduaUy identified with certainty. Stocechange type design from time toocument may also be proved fraudulent by showing that its type was not yet manufactured at the time of Its purported date. Aside from type design and the Individual DtcuUarlUased type, the machine may bekienUfied as one on which worn
Ietread type" may be distinguishable by its sharp,
lar corners, by ipechd retreadhe type facesnumerals, which get little use and are! rarely changed, and therefore will not match the retread fonu used for tbe other character*.
It is occasionally possible to Identify the Individual who!ocument from bis habit of using particular pressurel on certain keys, making unique mistakes, and in sometances using unique spacings. uspect is made toozen copies of the questioned document on the samehe will follow the same psychological patterns each' time,omparison of the test specimens underwith the original document will make it apparent that they were typed by the sameerson who uses the; "hunt and peck" system, for example, characteristically hits the period so hard that he punctures or almost punctures the, paper. Many people put much more pressure onof letters found In their own names than on the other letters they type.
The Submission of Questioned Documents
The fruits of this analysis are available, of course, only; when documents have been questioned or found suspect and] submitted to the laboratory. This questioning ishe obligation of the Intelligence officer who firstocument or of some staff analyst who finds that it does not fit well Into tbe pattern of things already knownase. Tbe decision to request technical aid for analysis of written materials connected with an operation has in retrospect often turned out to be the most important decision made during Its course. The use of this facility for counterintelligencehasteadily growing thing, for every findother Intelligence officers to bring dead files back to life for comparison with tbe newly identified material Different1 areas have on numerous occasions found, when certainents were compared, that they were boat to the same ad-ersary agent
Many intelligence officers, however, still overlook the very' Evidence which might successfullyase fors often thought for example,andwritingexTices are necessary onlyocument is suspectedof^ Wing forged, whereas the results of expert exarnrnauon may,Original document.