NASA photo analyst: Bush wore a device during debate
Physicist says imaging techniques prove the president's bulge was not caused by wrinkled clothing.
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By Kevin Berger
Oct. 29, 2004 | George W. Bush tried to laugh off the bulge. "I don't know what that is," he said on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, referring to the infamous protrusion beneath his jacket during the presidential debates. "I'm embarrassed to say it's a poorly tailored shirt."
Dr. Robert M. Nelson, however, was not laughing. He knew the president was not telling the truth. And Nelson is neither conspiracy theorist nor midnight blogger. He's a senior research scientist for NASA and for Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and an international authority on image analysis. Currently he's engrossed in analyzing digital photos of Saturn's moon Titan, determining its shape, whether it contains craters or canyons.
For the past week, while at home, using his own computers, and off the clock at Caltech and NASA, Nelson has been analyzing images of the president's back during the debates. A professional physicist and photo analyst for more than 30 years, he speaks earnestly and thoughtfully about his subject. "I am willing to stake my scientific reputation to the statement that Bush was wearing something under his jacket during the debate," he says. "This is not about a bad suit. And there's no way the bulge can be described as a wrinkled shirt."
Nelson and a scientific colleague produced the photos from a videotape, recorded by the colleague, who has chosen to remain anonymous, of the first debate. The images provide the most vivid details yet of the bulge beneath the president's suit. Amateurs have certainly had their turn at examining the bulge, but no professional with a résumé as impressive as Nelson's has ventured into public with an informed opinion. In fact, no one to date has enhanced photos of Bush's jacket to this degree of precision, and revealed what appears to be some kind of mechanical device with a wire snaking up the president's shoulder toward his neck and down his back to his waist.
Nelson stresses that he's not certain what lies beneath the president's jacket. He offers, though, "that it could be some type of electronic device -- it's consistent with the appearance of an electronic device worn in that manner." The image of lines coursing up and down the president's back, Nelson adds, is "consistent with a wire or a tube."
Nelson used the computer software program Photoshop to enhance the texture in Bush's jacket. The process in no way alters the image but sharpens its edges and accents the creases and wrinkles. You've seen the process performed a hundred times on "CSI": pixelated images are magnified to reveal a clear definition of their shape.