Saturday, July 05, 2008

The (semi-) mysterious case of Obama's birth certificate

As regular readers know, I have followed the case of the missing Obama birth certificate story closely.

In fact, several days ago, I pointed to evidence of the legitimacy of scanned images released by the Daily Kos site and the Obama campaign.

Jay McKinnon and the Daily Kos "Forgeries"

But over the last two days, several new developments have countered my assertion. First, the newspaper Israel Insider (II) highlighted an implication that blogger Jay McKinnon created the Obama birth certificate from whole cloth.

Jay McKinnon, a self-described Department of Homeland Security-trained document specialist, has implicated himself in the production of fake Hawaii birth certificate images similar to the one endorsed as genuine by the Barack Obama campaign, and appearing on the same Daily Kos blog entry where the supposedly authentic document appears.

But why does this matter?

Without a valid birth certificate, the primary record of US birth, Obama cannot prove that he fulfills the "natural born citizen" requirement of the Constitution, throwing into doubt his eligibility to run for President and throwing the race into turmoil. His presumed Kenyan-born father was foreign-born, and his mother was too young at the time of birth to confer natural born status by virtue of her American citizenship. Thus his citizenship comes down to proving he was born in the USA, and his campaign has staked its credibility on the authenticity of the Daily Kos-derived birth certificate image. (These aspects of the case are covered extensively in the previous article in this series.)

A prior conversation on the Daily Kos site involving "opendna" (McKinnon, according to II) was captured by staffers and implicates the entire set of scans as possible forgeries.

A possible answer for some of these anomalies is provided in banter between opendna and other commenters in the discussion thread of the blog post.

At 12:41pm, a prior request for a "font expert" is answered by opendna: "How about a certified DHS [Department of Homeland Security] document expert?" And by 1:35pm opendna comes up with a suggestion: "Why don't you just print one up for him? Here's a blank template.

And sure enough, there in the comments stream, he provides the "almost blank" Hawaii birth certificate image that appears on his Photobucket account, with just the information for the island and hour of birth.

And this blank template appears to precisely match (including time of birth) the Obama scan.

But there's one problem: I analyzed the blank scan with the Obama scan for artifacts on the reverse side of the "certificates".

The Obama scan has subtle imprints of what appear to be a seal and a signature block.

Under the same set of analysis procedures, the blank scans allegedly produced by McKinnon come up dry. No imprints are visible (just a note: the reasons for the differences in the appearance of the processed images relate to the original sizes and resolutions that I received).

If II wants to make the case that the provenance of the Obama scan is similar to that of McKinnon's blank certificate, it must explain the (missing) seal and signature block.

Techdude's analysis

Yesterday, Larwyn alerted me to a post on the Atlas site by one of the commenters.

As a real forensic computer investigator (board certified, investigated thousands of cases, access to a full forensic computer lab, yadda yadda...) I decided to jump into the fray over the fake vs real discussion a week ago when a friend of mine challenged me to see what I could find (since according to him, the document was clearly a real one). He is what one would call a slightly rabid Obama supporter – he even has the tattoo to prove it...

...Before I became a forensic geek I worked for [a herein nameless publicly traded company] that designed counterfeit detection hardware and software for the banking and retail industry. The company was very high profile and we received training from [a certain herein nameless department of the Federal government that knows a thing or two about counterfeiting] - but I do not claim to be an all around expert in Questioned Documents but after several years of working with them I do know what to look for to spot an obvious fake...

...I caught a glimpse of what I and apparently everyone else had simply not noticed. The security borders do not match. Literally. They are not even close to identical... (Ed: image on the left is from the Obama scan; image on the right in the Decosta certificate).

...I am unable to explain the differences between the security diamond sizes and counts and the un-centered portions (meaning the diamond pattern ends on an odd pattern instead of even where it meets the edges of the header and footer boxes). Looking closer at the KOS certificate (magnified to 400%) clearly shows inconsistencies in the security border such as cut and paste marks and overlaying of the side borders where they meet the top and bottom. This effect is not observed in the Decosta certificate at any magnification. Another point of interest, removing the background security pattern did not remove the background area from underneath the security border on the KOS certificate. The color and hue values of the background pattern located and viewable through the security border are also not a match to the rest of the certificate background. I can not explain these discrepancies. I then noticed there were some indications that the background pattern had been duplicated and placed in various locations to clean up the document. Now at some point I just started to laugh and went out for a smoke and gave up looking for more...

...I am convinced that the certificate is a fake (and not really a very good one) and I went into this with a completely open mind (something the Obamanationalists seem to have lost). I also have to say that everyone who has been looking into this federal crime (and it is a federal crime even if the certificates were never meant to be used for identification) have done a stupendous job and I wish they all worked for my lab. Talk about a winning team.

Put simply, Techdude has identified the certificate's borders as suspect. And, I agree, it looks cheap and lousy. But can we really say that Hawaii hasn't changed the border since the DeCosta certificate was released?

But until Hawaiian officials comment on Obama's birth certificate issue, I think we are all grasping at straws.

Doubters on the Kos site

That said, some DailyKos commenters are none too pleased.

Birth Certificate is an Obvious Fake

Sorry to disabuse you folks, but this birth certificate on dailykos is an obvious fake... The fake "birth certificate" just appeared Thursday morning on dailykos without any reference as to who released it or where it came from... There is a link from the fightthesmears website to "the truth" posting on to it without any reference. (i.e. there is no "this is Barack Obama's birth certificate
provided to dailykos by person xxx of the Obama campaign")

There is no provenance explaining where the "birth certificate" came from. In Hawaii, birth certificates aren't publicly available and reporters' requests for one have been ignored for months... There is no explanation as to whom vouches for its origins or its authenticity... The certificate number is blacked out. Why?

There are image artifacts consistent with forgeries and image processing. It's not a real, unprocessed scan of a birth certificate... It's not certified. Hawaii state code provides that certificates issued by the department of health be certified... Doe the Obama campaign have a statement on this uncertified "birth certificate"?

Isn't this Obama's "birth certificate" issue getting to be kind of strange by now?

How can a man run for President without disclosing his birth certificate?

Why does an anonymous, no-provenance, obviously fake scan of an uncertified birth certificate appear on dailykos, a fanatically pro-Obama blog?

Why won't the Obamas or the Obama campaign just formally and transparently release a certified copy of Barack Obama's birth certificate?

by AsperGirl on Fri Jun 13, 2008 at 08:05:30 AM PDT

This is NOT a Birth Certificate. It is, instead, a proof of birth that may be issued by the state for use in obtaining passports, etc. if the original has been lost, or is unavailable as in the case of adoption where the original is sealed by the court. Hawaii's rules may be different than other states', but the information on this one is scanty. One question that should be asked here is why the father's race is given as "African". African is not a race. I'm not saying this proof of birth is inauthentic, but there are a few other questions it raises. Why not have them answered and put the issue to rest, especially when the Office of President legally requires a natural born citizen?

by miriam on Fri Jun 13, 2008 at 01:23:23 PM PDT

Indeed. Why not have them answered?

Beware the trap or dead-end

I had written a few days ago, having found what appears to be a seal and a signature block, that the issue might be resolved.

But, as experts have ably pointed out, it may not be.

But... I would still caution all who jump on the Obama-slash-bogus birth certificate bandwagon that this may yet turn out to be a trap or dead-end. Obama's campaign could produce a real birth certificate and blame the scan on another "ill-informed staffer"... who is then thrown under the bus.*

Let's not forget to keep attacking Obama's policy differences, his amazing verbal contortions (some would call them outright lies), and coaster-sized resume. For that is how he will be defeated in November.

* Joining Jeremiah Wright, Father Pfleger, William Ayers, and countless other problematic "staffers".

Linked by: Memeorandum, The National Review, Tigerhawk, and AJ Strata. Thanks!

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