What Did Savannah Guthrie Really See?

Now that it's been established that Barack Obama's long-form "birth certificate" originated as a digitally created forgery, we are left to ponder: how was the paper certificate of which NBC News reporter Savannah Guthrie took pictures created?

A reasonable assumption would be that the forgery was created in Hawaii by conspirators, or, possibly without the president's knowledge, by pranksters in the Hawaii Department of Health, or as a Republican dirty trick designed to blow up a week or two before the November elections -- then the printed image was copied onto real security paper and embossed with a real seal before being sent by courier to the White House.

Another reasonable assumption would be that the digital fake was created by the White House, then electronically sent to Hawaii for the creation of the paper document by complicit Hawaiian officials.

But is this really what happened?  Let's review what we know:

On October 31, 2008, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, then director of the Hawaii Department of Health, issued a statement including the following: "I as Director of Health for the State of Hawai'i, along with the Registrar of Vital Statistics who has statutory authority to oversee and maintain these type of vital records, have personally seen and verified that the Hawai'i State Department of Health has Sen. Obama's original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures."

She reiterated this information with a statement released on July 27, 2009, adding that she had "seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawai'i State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawai'i and is a natural-born American."  (One can disagree on legal grounds with the additional qualifier of natural-born, but let's agree that her statement identifies Obama as native-born.)

In a telephone interview with NBC reporter Michael Isikoff about which Isikoff wrote on April 11, 2011, Dr. Fukino told Isikoff (in Isikoff's words here) that "the original so-called 'long form' birth certificate -- described by Hawaiian officials as a 'record of live birth' -- absolutely exists, located in a bound volume in a file cabinet on the first floor of the state Department of Health.  Fukino said she has personally inspected it -- twice.  The first time was in late October 2008 -- taking with her the state official in charge of vital records.  She found the original birth record, properly numbered, half typed and half handwritten, and signed by the doctor who delivered Obama, located in the files.  She then put out a public statement asserting to the document's validity.  She later put out another public statement in July 2009 - after reviewing the original birth record a second time."

On April 25, 2011, current director Loretta J. Fuddy of the Hawaii Department of Health wrote to the president, "Enclosed, please find two copies of your original Certificate of Live Birth.  I have witnessed the copying of the certificate and attest to the authenticity of these copies."

Neither official has at any time identified the digital PDF released by the White House as being identical in appearance or containing information identical to the Obama birth certificate on file in the bound volume at the Hawaii Department of Health.  They are prohibited by Hawaii state law from doing so.

It seems we have two choices here: to believe that (A) the two Hawaii officials are liars and knowingly acquiesced in the copying of a forged "birth certificate" and the issuing of certified copies as genuine documents; or (B) they are telling the truth, and Dr. Fuddy did indeed hand over two certified copies of Obama's genuine long-form birth certificate to Judith L. Corley of Perkins Coie, the president's personal lawyer, for delivery to the White House.  I am inclined to believe (B).

We also know that the White House released the "birth certificate" forgery in two different forms.  The first was released to the White House press corps on the morning of April 27, 2011 in their press packets as black-and-white copies of a printout of the digital forgery showing a white background -- that is, with no security-paper background present except at the very left of the certificate image, where the image had been darkened to simulate the bending of a page in a book.  It was one of these copies that was later computer-scanned by the Associated Press and released worldwide.

In addition to the Associated Press scan of a copy of the forgery, a photo of the press copy was also taken by Brendan Smialowski for Getty Images.  It is shown in Figure BS:

Figure BS.  Photo of press handout of the forgery taken for Getty Images, showing "bleed-through" of the 2008 Certification of Live Birth.

Look closely toward the top of this photo, and you will see "bleeding through" the image of Obama's (short-form) Certification of Live Birth, with the certificate number blacked out, as it was originally released by the Obama campaign in 2008.

You can see this more clearly in the composite Figure BT, which follows, showing side-by-side a portion of the 2008 Certification next to the bleed-through in the Getty photo.  (I have increased the contrast in this piece of the Getty photo to make the comparison easier.)

Figure BT.  Side-by-side comparison of the 2008 Certification and the "bleed-through" visible on the first page of the press packet.

A possible explanation for this effect is that, when the White House was making up the press packets to pass out to reporters the morning of April 27, the source documents were stacked with the short-form Certification behind the printout on white paper of the long-form Certificate forgery, and the copying function picked up traces of the second page as it scanned the first.

Another possible (and more likely) explanation is that the photographer took a picture of the press packet as it was handed to the reporters, with the Certificate forgery as the top page and the 2008 Certification (which is a highly visible document) as the second page.

In either case, there is no way a copier or camera would be sensitive enough to pick up this second-page image while failing to pick up a security-paper background covering the first page, if one were present.  Thus, the computer printout of the digital forgery, which was the source document for the copies being made, was engineered to remove the security-paper background as much as possible.

(You can test this yourself.  Print out the PDF forgery [in black and white] on your own laser printer set to a light density.  Then make a copy of it, also at a light-density setting [to simulate the copies passed out to the press].  You will see that the security background pattern is faint to essentially gone except at the left edge of the Certificate image.  Repeat the test at normal density, and you will see that the security background, though degraded, is still plainly visible over the whole document.)

As just mentioned, the second form of the forgery is the digital PDF released to the internet at whitehouse.gov by the White House on April 27, 2011, with a green security-paper-style background showing.  We know that the green background was digitally added to the PDF because contemporaneous press reports state that the Obama administration claimed that the pattern was added for security purposesQ.  We also know that the green background was added because the forgery tells us so -- with the white halos that surround the text and graphics.  These halos are a sure sign of digital manipulation, as a true scan of black information printed on real security paper would not produce white halos.  (You can test this yourself by taking any security-paper document you own, such as a personal check, and doing a simple scan of it into your computer. You will see no white halos created.)

So let's return to the question -- what did Savannah Guthrie really see?

Let's examine some of the white halos in the digital PDF forgery released by the White House.  As shown in Figure K, these show up well in the address "East Africa" in Line 11, and especially well over the "as" of "East" and "ca" of "Africa," where the halos bow into a darker portion of the green.  There is also a halo around the dot in the "i" of "Africa," and in the word "HUSSEIN" in Line 8, there is virtually no green in the curves of the two "S"s, nor between them.

Figure K.  White halos surround "Kenya, East Africa," and there is a lack of green pattern in "SS" of "HUSSEIN" in the digital forgery.

Now let's take a look at the same part of the paper "birth certificate" from the close-up picture that Guthrie took on April 27, shown in Figure KG.  This is her original picture, which I have not altered in any way other than to crop it to the area of interest, then enlarge it to 200% of original size for better visibility:

Figure KG. These same halos can (marginally) also be seen in the Guthrie photo.

The photo is low-resolution and was taken in an environment which caused almost all the color to disappear, so you have to look carefully, being cautious to see only what you really do see and not think you see what isn't there.  I will tell you what I see -- and I understand that there may be wide disagreement with me, and that this is an area open to further discussion and research.

Most noticeably, what I see in the photo is the halo around the dot in the "i" of "Africa" where there should be a darker (green) bar running directly into the dot.  I also see the bowing of the halo around the "ca" of "Africa" into the darker bar above.  There is also a break between the bar above the "s" and the letter itself in "East" where that darker bar should run directly into the letter.  In the word "HUSSEIN" I see the same lack of color in "SS," where especially in the first "S" there should be a darker bar passing through.  There is some evidence of the halos in the long lines that make up the boxes of the form, though Guthrie's camera was not sensitive enough to pick up all of the haloing effect we see in Figure K.  The overall effect in the photo is of the background pattern disappearing in the vicinity of the letters, just as it does in the PDF.

By inference, no real security paper was used to produce the paper document in Guthrie's photo -- because if the forger had copied a black-and-white version of the forgery (no security background showing and no halos) onto real security paper, then there would be no halos in the photo.

My conclusion is this: what Guthrie really saw was a color laser computer printout of the complete forgery, including the faked security-paper background -- leaving us to speculate only on how the forger managed to fake the embossed seal Guthrie felt.

Savannah Guthrie (along with the other reporters, and the public at large) was the victim of a classic "bait-and-switch" scam.  The real birth certificates from Hawaii arrived at the White House on the afternoon of April 26, 2011; the next morning, the forgery was offered up to the press, and only a single reporter was allowed to briefly view, touch, and take pictures of the completed product -- on behalf of all of the citizens of the U.S. who had been clamoring for more transparency about the president's birth history for almost three years.

Since the forger didn't have access to genuine blank Hawaii Department of Health security paper, the odds are very high that the forgery was produced entirely within the White House.  If it had been created in Hawaii, there would have been no need to fake the security background, because the health department employees there have access to the real thing.

Nick Chase is a retired but still very active technical writer, technical editor, computer programmer, and stock market newsletter writer.  During his career he has produced documentation on computers, typewriters, typesetters, headline-makers, and other pieces of equipment most people never heard of, and he has programmed typesetting equipment.  You can read more of his work at contrariansview.org.

Footnote Q: Although this factoid was reported in the press, I have not been able to find an original source for the statement.  If any reader knows of an original source identifying who in the Obama administration said this and when, I would appreciate being given that information.

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