Obama's Fake Birth Certificate?

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
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There are a number of Web sites asserting that Barack Obama's birth certificate was forged, that he was not born on U.S. soil and is therefore not a citizen. This is a descendant of the argument made in 1964 by left-wing moonbats that Barry Goldwater wasn't eligible to run because he was born in Arizona before it became a state. Some claim to have used advanced forensic methods to reveal that the certificate is really that of his sister, with her name erased and his added in its place. The sites making these claims don't actually reproduce the birth certificate or describe how the hidden signatures were revealed, but they reproduce lots of e-mails to various law enforcement agencies full of the pompous pseudo-legal blather that people resort to when they don't actually have a case.

Well, I'm normally a skeptic about conspiracy theories, but I downloaded a copy of his birth certificate, did a little color and contrast enhancement, and the original erased names just leapt out.

Even by the standards of the Apollo Moon Landing Hoax theory and the 9-11 conspiracy theories, the forgery theory is so breathtakingly stupid it defies belief. The patterned background on the certificate is a simple double-weave pattern. It might be sufficient to defeat erasures, but it's trivial to forge digitally. Anyone with a few minutes' experience with any graphics program could cut and paste a blank section of background seamlessly over any text. There would be nothing for any forensics method to reveal. It might be possible, if the forger is clumsy, to identify the seam but a little work with a smoothing tool would blur it. It might also be possible to identify patches of identical pixels, but adding a little random noise, rotating motifs, or running a smoothing tool over parts of the copied pattern would make pixel matching dubious. And the only images of the certificate on line are jpeg images, which tend to be noisy around sharp edge, high contrast features like letters, further complicating any efforts to reveal an underlying erased text.

Oh, there's also no raised seal. Because raised seals show up so well on scanned documents where there is no side lighting. Note the faint reversed date near the bottom of the certificate, which is probably where the raised seal is on the original.

So, either someone in the highest stakes game of all can't do a simple cut and paste, but processes out old text in such a way that it can be read even through superimposed text and the noise generated by the jpeg encoding. Or we have conspiracy believers that make Moon Hoax believers and 9-11 troofers look like the team from CSI. The Internet continues to prove that stupidity is a hole with no bottom.

The Moonbats Just Won't Quit

Conservative black candidate Alan Keyes filed a suit in November, 2008 demanding that Obama produce proof of citizenship. Note the fine print at the bottom of the certificate: "This copy serves as prima facie evidence of the fact of birth in any court proceeding," followed by citations of the relevant state statutes. In other words, it is as official as the original on file in the County Clerk's office. So if Keyes' loopy suit ever gets onto a court docket, it will be tossed the second a judge looks at the certificate.

"Prima facie" means "at first appearance" or "at face value." If you don't have actual proof that the certificate is forged, it is to be taken at face value as genuine. The burden of proof is on the doubter.

B-b-but it's not original. So what? You guarantee authenticity of birth certificates (and drivers' licenses, passports, and so on) by maintaining control of the forms, stamps, and other authentication measures and by keeping a parallel record of the forms. So if I lose my driver's license, I can get a replacement by supplying enough information to confirm my identity. The replacement is as valid as the original because the control measures protect authenticity. But if I just walk in, say I lost my license, and give information they don't have in their files, I don't get one.

Why Doesn't Barack Obama Just Produce the Original?

Because he's not answerable to moonbats.

If I apply for a job in a Federal science agency, they will want me to verify my credentials. So I will have to submit official copies of my academic transcripts (authenticity protected because the school sends them, not the individual) and other data. This I do because they have a right to screen candidates.

Now say somebody who doesn't like what I say about 9-11, or the Apollo moon landings, or creationism, or, well, Obama's birth certificate, calls my credentials into question and demands that I produce academic original transcripts. His e-mail will go into a special box I reserve for egregiously stupid correspondence and I will ignore him. Because I owe him nothing.

So then he announces pompously that, if I don't produce originals by a deadline, he will take that as confirmation that his allegations are true. Fine, baby. You take it however your little heart desires. Because it means nothing. This is classic crank reasoning: it is up to everyone else to disprove my claims. No, it's up to you to prove your claims are even worthy of attention in the first place, much less worthy of testing.

The people whose opinion counts, the Democratic Party and the voters, accept Obama's citizenship as genuine. He doesn't owe hard-core denialists the time of day.

B-b-but he's the President. He's answerable to the people. Yes. He's answerable to their representatives in Congress, and ultimately to the voters. But he's not answerable to every crackpot on the far fringes. He's not answerable to 9-11 conspiracy theorists, or people who believe we have frozen aliens at Area 51 (next to the Ron Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks). And he's under no obligation to produce an original birth certificate to placate people angry because they couldn't win the election the right way.


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Created 14 July 2008;  Last Update 02 June, 2010

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