Barack Hussein Obama and Harrison J. Bounel
Who is Harrison J. Bounel, and might the name suggest something about possible Obama ID fraud?
To be sure, healthcare.gov’s failure to verify Obama’s identity implies nothing whatsoever as to whether ordinary citizens should question it.
Undoubtedly, the system glitch represents nothing more, and nothing less, than yet another instance of racist computers conspiring against Obama.
The Harrison J. Bounel controversy revolves in part around the fact -- contested by no one -- that a personal information database, housed in yet another presumptively racist computer, linked Obama’s Hyde Park Chicago home address and SSN with the name “Harrison J. Bounel.”
So what’s going on?
In order to maximize the prospect of arriving at the truth, let us turn to the decidedly non-racist Snopes folks for the answer, since they are surely the premier debunkers of “crazy” conspiracy theories related to Obama’s identity:
An item from February 2013 resurrected the claim that Barack Obama was using someone else's Social Security number, this time a SSN supposedly belonging to one Harrison J. Bounel:
Who is Harrison J. Bounel? According to the 2009 tax return submitted by President Barack Obama, he's the President of the United States….
This claim stems from nothing more than the observation that a search of a personal information database back in 2011 showed that the name "Harrison J. Bounel" had been mistakenly cross-indexed with Barack Obama's home address and Social Security number. (This type of error is common in such databases and has since been corrected.) Aside from that temporary erroneous entry, there is no evidence whatsoever that Barack Obama ever used the name "Harrison J. Bounel" as an alias, or that Barack Obama's Social Security number was originally issued to someone by that name.
There’s nothing like deep inhalation of wintergreen, non-racist air if a cure for your conspiracy-addled mind is what you’re after.
Just think of Snopes as a virtual sanitarium; read what they have to say and nothing else, and your fever will surely break.
But: there are a few problems with the Snopes “refutation” of Bounel-related conspiracy theories.
In regard to the Bounel/Obama link, we are clearly in the realm of fact, not conspiracy theory.
Notice that Snopes does not deny, but rather affirms, that the Bounel name was in fact linked to Obama’s name, SSN, and home address.
Snopes’ question, and ours, is why?
It is very easy to show that what the Snopes folks offer by way of explanation for the linkage is very, very weak indeed.
What follows debunks the Bounel/Obama debunkers, all while extending Obama (and his aliases) every benefit of the doubt. Should Bounel-related problems remain for Obama, our reasons for harboring suspicion with respect to his identity will be very much strengthened indeed.
First, let’s quickly deal with the notion that Obama, (like Bounel?), was (and may still be) using a Connecticut issued SSN.
Here is Snopes’ account:
Why Barack Obama's Social Security card application might have included a Connecticut mailing address is something of a curiosity, as he had no known connection to that state at the time, but by itself that quirk is no indicator of fraud. The most likely explanation for the discrepancy is a simple clerical or typographical error: the ZIP code in the area of Honolulu where Barack Obama lived at the time he applied for his Social Security number in 1977 is 96814, while the ZIP code for Danbury, Connecticut, is 06814. Since '0' and '9' are similarly shaped numbers and are adjacent on typewriter keyboards, it's not uncommon for handwritten examples to be mistaken for each other, or for one to be mistyped as the other (thereby potentially resulting in a Hawaiian resident's application mistakenly being routed as if it had originated from Connecticut).
You know what? Why bicker?
Let’s just give Obama the benefit of the doubt here. A mistake was made. Beyond question, there are, by now, probably thousands of people wandering around Hawaiian zip code 96814 who are possessed of Connecticut-routed SSN’s associated with Danbury’s 06814 zip code.
So just banish it from your mind, because there is more interesting ID related material to attend to.
But what about the “cross-indexing” of the name Bounel with Obama’s name, his home address, and his SSN -- all of which Snopes admits happened?
The above Snopes quote claims that “this type of error is common in [personal information] databases.”
They supply no data whatsoever in support of this claim, but, once again, never mind.
Clearly, questions about Obama’s identity have nothing to do with data and shouldn’t.
We already know the answers, and the answers are that everything’s A-OK.
And yet, there remain pesky questions such as “just how common is it for names to be mistakenly linked to other names, addresses, and SSN’s in “personal information databases”?
Are such mistakes made more often than not?
I don’t know but I doubt it.
Which do you suppose is more common: (1) “extra” names are associated with personal information database files that include names, SSNs, addresses, and so forth when extra names have in fact been used in some way or ways by the person in question, or (2) “extra” names are assigned to such files by random error?
We can’t be sure what the base rate of such errors in personal information databases is, but I’d be shocked if it happened very often. If it did, it would obviously seriously undermine the value of the data.
Suppose you accessed a professional personal information database and looked up 100 people known to you. How many of them do you think would have extra names that were assigned to them randomly? Fifty?
“Oh, I don’t know why it says Frank Marshall Davis there when we both know it should say Bob Kent from Kentucky.”
That kind of thing occurs all the time, right?
Let’s get serious. Obama’s problem is not just the infrequency of random name-assignment errors in professional personal databases.
His problem -- and it is a most incorrigible problem -- has to do with the rarity of the name “Harrison J. Bounel.”
To the best of my knowledge, it’s not clear any instances of the name other than the instance putatively “randomly” assigned to Obama exist.
If “random error” explains an extra name having been assigned to Obama, why wasn’t the random name something on the order of “Robert Smith”, or “Juan Gonzalez”, or “John J. Jones” for that matter?
A rational decision as to which of random chance or conscious, purposeful choice best explains the association of the Harrison J. Bounel name with Obama, Obama’s SSN, and Obama’s home Chicago address requires only that we acknowledge that a conscious decision would itself provide a perfectly good explanation for the appearance of such an unusual name.
That is, “Harrison J. Bounel” rather than, say, “Robert Smith,” appeared simply because an unusual name was consciously desired and therefore consciously selected.
Indeed, the Harrison J. Bounel name may well have been selected, at least in part, precisely because there were no other instances of it.
Notice that if we accept this explanation of the origin and assignment of the Harrison J. Bounel name, there is no longer anything unusual about it at all -- statistically or otherwise. Instead, under this explanation, the assignment of the name is exactly what one would expect.
Oddly enough, with respect to the Harrison J. Bounel name, it is Obama supporters who must grasp at straws and pretend to rest satisfied with explanations that invoke random error stacked upon random error.
Indeed, the above argument is sufficiently powerful that some of Obama’s supporters attempt, consciously or not, to avoid it by postulating a conspiracy theory which apparently holds that an anti-Obama individual may have placed the name “Bounel” alongside the Obama record!
It’s a notable coincidence that Bounel appeared in a record with Obama’s social-security number just one month after Orly Taitz published the President’s social-security number on the Internet (meaning that anyone could have learned of it, along with Obama’s name and public home address).
The fellow who wrote this calls himself, quite appropriately, Dr. Conspiracy.
His real name is Kevin Davidson, and he is not a doctor --but never mind.
I guess Davidson is either unaware of, or chooses to ignore, the many “notable” coincidences attending Obama’s background and identity (some of which are specified here).
Either that, or Davidson’s rule is: coincidences that can be construed in favor of Obama are actually conspiracies against Obama, while all coincidences that cast Obama’s identity in doubt are in fact idle conspiracy theories.
In any event, there is at least one enormous problem with Davidson’s conspiracy theory defense of Obama/Harrison J. Bounel: what search procedure did Davidson’s supposed random anti-Obama actor employ in order to unearth a name they could be sure absolutely nobody else was using?
Dr. Jason Kissner is associate professor of criminology at California State University, Fresno. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.