Is Obama’s Newly Released Long Form Birth Certificate Legitimate?Posted: April 27, 2011
After years of persistent stonewalling, some of it as recently as yesterday, President Obama has just released the long form version of his Hawaiian birth certificate. So after all this time and money (about $2M) trying to make this issue go away Obama finally decides enough is enough and he releases the long form version of his birth certificate.
I was happy to hear that this saga might finally be coming to a close and I wanted to go see the document first hand. A little Googling soon lead me to this document (originally downloaded from the official White House website linked above). To be able to make the image web friendly I displayed the contents of the above document in PDF Reader and then took and cropped a screen capture. The unretouched result can be see here:
Imagine my disappointment when I came to realize that this image is NOT a direct, unretouched copy of the original document. This is obvious from even a cursory examination of the image.
This document is clearly the product of a photo editing compilation. The text and graphics of what appears to have been an Hawaiian Certificate of Live Birth have been electronically extracted from an original source document and then super-imposed onto an official looking background. The same is true for the certification date and the certifying signature. I will illustrate this in more detail below. There is no way to know if this manipulation was done by the Hawaii State Department of Health as part of their standard practice, or whether this was done after the fact by someone in the Obama Administration.
Evidence of Photo Editing
In order to observe the evidence that this image has undergone digital extraction and has been artificially superimposed onto an official looking background all anyone needs to do is to open the original White House provided PDF and then zoom in to look at the details around the text and other artifacts. In the screenshots provided below I have increased the zoom level to 400% to examine the document more closely. In each of these examples I have annotated the screenshots as follows:
- Blue Arrows are used to point out various distortions and pixelations within the document image. These distortions are artifacts of the compression algorithm used in the PDF document itself and are not evidence of anything beyond the fact the an image has been compressed.
- Red Arrows are used to highlight telltale evidence that what you are looking at is an image which was digitally extracted from some source document and then superimposed onto the background.
Why is this latter point important? Simply because we know that the image is not a direct scan of an original source document and, given that it has been altered we cannot say for certain what level of manipulation has been performed. The image may be an accurate reflection of the contents of an original long form birth certificate, or it may be a complete fabrication. There is simply no way to distinguish between the two.
The thing to notice with the red arrows is that all of the graphics and text in this image are surrounded by a thin border of pure white pixels. This is a telltale sign that the text has been extracted from another document and that this is not text which was originally printed on this background. This border of white around the text is an artifact of the automated algorithm which was used to select the text for extraction before being superimposed on this background image. Notice also that the centers of any “closed loops” such as that found in the center of the letter “O” or in the loops found on a captial “B” are also pure white and do not match the coloring that would normally be seen if this text had been physically printed on this background in its original state.
Now all of this is only evidence that the document provided has been electronically manipulated. It says nothing about how much it was manipulated or why. It may be that the Hawaii State Department of Health did the extraction and manipulation themselves as part of providing the original image via their standard operating procedures, but it is just as possible that this image was artificially constructed to look like an official document. Given that the image is obviously the product of a photo editing technology there is no way to determine whether the information being displayed is a true representation of an actual document, or not.
Lack of an Official Seal
Another obvious item that jumps out at me is the lack of any official seal or impression near or around the signature. For all officially certified documents I have ever seen there is always a raised seal or an official stamp bearing the seal of the state or agency issuing the document that is used to indicate the authenticity thereof. Perhaps Hawaii does not adhere to this practice, I can’t say for sure, but it does raise question as to whether this is even an officially issued document. Until this issue of the Hawaii State Department of Health’s official practice regarding the use of raised seals or stamps on these types of documents has been investigated the authenticity of this document should still be considered questionable.
Regardless of whether this document was manipulated by the Hawaii State Department of Health, or someone else, unless a clear and unaltered version of the original source birth certificate is provided Obama is not going to be able to put this issue to rest. There is far too much room with this current document for there to have been manipulation on the part of the Obama Administration and therefore the conspiracy theorists will not leave the matter alone. Obama needs to provide clear and undeniable evidence that (a) he has a Certificate of Live Birth on record in Hawaii, and (b) that the certificate is not a forgery.
As I have said before, the only way to accomplish this is to give independent news agencies direct access to the original source document so that they can have an appropriate set of experts determine the authenticity of that document. Short of that the conspiracy theorists will have a hey day with this issue.
I actually want to be able to put this matter behind us so that we can get on with the task of fixing our nation. I am pleased that the President appears to be trying to cooperate in that regard. Unfortunately the step he took today is unlikely to achieve that goal.
Let the media conduct their own independent investigation of the original source document if you ever wish to put this matter behind you once and for all.
I looked into the issue of a lack of raised seal on the document issued by Obama earlier today. For comparison I decided to go back and review the security and authentication methods used on the previous short-form birth certificate released back in 2008 as documented by FactCheck.org.
What I found was that in 2008 the document which was released actually contained a raised seal to demonstrate its authenticity. The seal was located directly above the stamped signature of the State Registrar.
As documented above, the image released by the White House earlier today does not appear to contain such a raised seal even though earlier indications were that the Hawaii State Department of Health does, in fact, employ such a security measure as part of its authentication process.
Therefore the lack of such a seal on these documents does call their authenticity into question.