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Did the NY Times alter history? Obama Conspiracy Theories investigates!

Breitbart News published a publicist’s client list brochure from 1991 that includes Barack Obama, a description of a book project, and the curious statement that Barack Obama was born in Kenya—the exact words: “Born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.” Breitbart News did not claim that Barack Obama was born in Kenya based on that brochure, but rather that the brochure was an example of Obama trying to, in their words, “manipulate his public persona.” You can read my full story on the brochure from 2012 for more details.

The publicist’s assistant who edited the brochure, Miriam Goderich, describes the statement as “erroneous,” a “fact checking error,” and “never any information given to us by Obama.” Birthers, or course, latch onto anything they can find, and they stretch plausibility arguments to conclude Obama must have provided the information, approved the biographical statement, knew about its inclusion, and made no effort to get it corrected for over a decade.

There is one gaping hole in both what Breitbart News suggested and what the birthers believe, and that is found in an article in the New York Times the year before the brochure was made that says, “Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii.” It was an article on Obama being the first black elected as president of the Harvard Law Review. It is wildly implausible that Obama would tell the New York Times, the country’s newspaper of record, that he was born in Hawaii one year, and then try to put out a bio for a book project the next year saying he was born in Kenya. Nobody would expect to get away with something like that. A publicist’s assistant fact checking error is plausible—Obama telling two contradictory stories for publication one year apart is not.

That’s old news. What is new is a conspiracy theory promoted by the birther who posts as rtm9999 at Birther Report: the denial that the New York Times article from February 6, 1990, actually says Obama was born in Hawaii, and that the text version available online has been altered to add that sentence. Here’s the BR comment by rtm9999:

The NYT article is only found in an archive in an electronic format.
We already know that Obots edit text in newspaper and magazine articles . Especially the ones that stated Barry was foreign born (Tammy Duckworth interview. Hilariously it took several years before that edit happened.) or that stated that Barry was born in Kenya.

and

Let me teach you some words….
"The NYT article is only found in an electronic archive dated after Barry announced" and "Electronic media even one stored in an archive can be easily edited."

rtm9999 attempts to support this argument by citing a wire service article about Obama’s election as president of the Law Review that did not mention him born in Hawaii and suggesting that the Times article must then have not had that information either.

I quoted the article that quoted the earliest wire service take on his background….
"from Hawaii" and NOT born in Hawaii".

The insurmountable problem with that plausibility argument is that the New York Times story is not attributed to the wire service, but rather an interview conducted in Boston on February 5, the day Obama was elected to the Law Review. The attribution is: “By Fox Butterfield1 – Special to The New York Times.”

I would further call the statement by rtm9999 a lie when he says, “The NYT article is only found in an archive in an electronic format.” I suppose what rtm9999 meant was that the article is not found online except in text format. That’s not true either. The Huffington Post ran a screenshot image of the Times article on the article’s 25th anniversary in 2015. I didn’t know about the HuffPo article until I found it by accident today, and I can excuse rtm9999 for not knowing about it. What I cannot excuse is the irresponsible raising of doubt when it would have been easy to check another archive: the microfilm edition of the New York Times, widely available at public libraries across the country. I find it hard to believe that someone could graduate from school and not know about microfilm at the library.2

image

In contrast to birthers, I prefer to resolve issues rather than nurse doubts, so I dropped by the Spartanburg County Library to look up the Times article there. It’s on page A-20 in the February 6, 1990 edition. Below is my own cropped screen shot of the article, but you can click on the image to view the entire page in PDF format, exactly as it was created by the library microfilm scanner.

image

I made a suggestion in reply to rtm9999 that finding the NY Times on microfilm without the “Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii” text would be an important smoking gun to prove that newspapers were trying to change history to cover up the place of Obama’s birth. Either he didn’t take my suggestion, or chose not to disclose his findings.


1Fox Butterfield served as the NY Times bureau chief in Boston.

2The University of South Alabama library, where I attended college, had both the New York Times and the London Times on microfilm. The Greenville County Library has it, as does the Spartanburg County Library in South Carolina. From that anecdotal evidence, I concluded that the NYT on microfilm is widely available; however, not every library has it. For example, I checked the Laramie County (Cheyenne) Wyoming public library, and they don’t have it, but their librarian suggested that it might be obtained through interlibrary loan.

9

Biggest birther story of the year

It is possible, I suppose, that the rotting corpse of Bob Nelson lies undiscovered somewhere in the forests of North Carolina and that is the explanation of why the Birther Report web site has had no new articles since September 16. Perhaps there’s just no money in the birther Internet anymore. Here’s a poll here as to what you think is the biggest birther story of the year, but whichever you select, BR has ignored it:

What is the biggest birther story of 2016?

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Each of those stories has a significant impact on the birthers. On the negative side Donald Trump’s renunciation of birtherism (and his claim that he personally finished the controversy) removes one great hope of the birthers—that the federal government under a Trump administration will make the investigation of the former president’s birth certificate a high priority. Likewise the defeat of Joe Arpaio in his re-election bid and the statement from the sheriff-elect that the birth certificate investigation in Maricopa County will be shut down, ends the last quasi-official inquiry into the matter.

While Donald Trump has renounced birtherism, he still promises to achieve something that the birthers crave, the dismantling of what the Obama administration did. This is as close to the magic reset button as the birthers will get. It looks pretty certain that ObamaCare will be replaced by Trump[I don’t]Care and executive policy on immigration is likely to be reversed.  The big hope, however, still comes from Mike Zullo who has promised “gut-wrenching” revelations (words Zullo used in 2014) and the culmination of all the Cold Case Posse’s work. Sheriff Arpaio himself says that the results of the investigation will be packaged and presented to the new administration.

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A post-Melendres Zullo email surfaces

This email surfaced in a post Melendres disclosure. It was supposedly received by Mike Zullo on March 3 of this year.

Honorable Commander Zullo;

I hope you are not offended as I present to you in this mail. I am Johnjohn Williams of the Nigerian Forensics Laboratory. We are famous in our region for our documents and our examiners, with customers such as the Nigerian Petroleum Export Company ( NPEC) to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). We have been under the strict prohibition from our government to stay far from any Obama work because his birth certificate is a state secret, but our founder Abdalm Wismala is dying of the cancer and has not long to remain. He wants the truth to the world about Obama and his no good documents to repor, and he has nothing to lose.

For a small cost of $20000 USD we will report you with everything, seeing that the Obama birth certificate was put together from little pieces. We will tell you where they come from. We know all these things because our forensics are best in the world. It is urgent time to complete the work before honorable Wismala dies. The fee only covers the cost of our materials, and some fees we will have to pay to go under the nose of the government inspector. This email is in full confidence.

Please respond with your full name, address, and banking account number so that we can get started.

9

Larry Klayman: Montgomery toppled DNI

Director of National Intelligence SealIn a nutshell:

Larry Klayman suggested to the Post & Email that Dennis Montgomery might have had something to do with the resignation of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

Rambling details:

You may recall that Larry Klayman filed a lawsuit over federal surveillance of telecommunications records. As a result of his actions, injunctions were issued preventing the government from collecting this information on Larry Klayman himself and his 4 co-defendants. This all came out of the revelations of former CIA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden about what the government was doing.

But a less well-known former CIA contractor who paints himself as a whistleblower is represented by Larry Klayman, and that is Dennis Montgomery, a figure in the Melendres v. Arpaio contempt of court proceedings earlier in the year. Montgomery, unlike Snowden, didn’t actually blow any whistle, at least not that you could hear. He pursued immunity before he would toot, immunity that was not forthcoming.

It is an open question so far as I am concerned whether Dennis Montgomery himself had any personal knowledge of the secret government collection of telecommunications metadata, and whether he had possession of any of this data. The 50 hard drives Montgomery provided to Sheriff Joe Arpaio were examined by two former NSA experts, and they used the words “total fraud.”

Anyhow, Director of National Intelligence Clapper has resigned, effective January 17, right before the new administration begins, capping a 50-year career in public service. I don’t quite see how Montgomery’s not really whistleblowing and Clapper’s 3-day-early resignation, is something that one could draw an inference from. But then, I am not a birther.

Clapper himself offered this reassurance to the American people on Thursday about the upcoming Trump presidency:

It will be okay.

A postscript to this story concerns a remark appearing in the P&E article:

Klayman represents Montgomery in a defamation lawsuit against New York Times writer and book author James Risen as well as in Montgomery’s meetings last year with the FBI, when [Montgomery] was granted two separate immunity agreements by the agency.

What might be more informative is to say that Klayman represents Montgomery in the appeal of his loss in the Montgomery v. Risen lawsuit. Writer Risen called Montgomery a con man, and Montgomery sued for defamation. In a order this past July 15, United States District Judge Rudolph Contreras granted the defense motion for summary judgment: “Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (DCF No. 201) is GRANTED and JUDGMENT IS ENTERED in favor of Defendants on all counts of the Amended Complaint.” The Defendants’ motion for sanctions was denied. Judge Contreras opened his Memorandum Opinion with the words: “The twists and turns of this case could fill the pages of a book. In fact, much of it already has,” referring to Risen’s book, Pay any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War.

Klayman has filed notice of appeal. The case number of the appeal with the DC Circuit is 16-7096; final briefs are due in February of 2017.

Gallups sets deadline for press conference

Mike Zullo has been dragging out his non-presentation of the results of 4 years of Cold Case Posse investigation with promises of deep, dark revelations, universe-shattering information, meticulous planning and surmounting legal hurdles. It all became quite comical as milestone after milestone was missed.

For reasons known only to Mike Zullo and perhaps Carl Gallups, they have once more set a date, not that far in the future, and one not requiring a Trump presidency (and the removal of legal hurdles by his assumption of office). The deadline is December 31, 2016. The announcement from Carl Gallups came on the Mike Mashburn radio show on WEBY.

Gallups acknowledged that Sheriff Joe Arpaio will leave office at the end of the year. Gallups says that the Obama birth certification investigation is now wrapping up, based on his interview with Mike Zullo. Gallups said:

Before January 1st, because that’s when Arpaio leaves office, Arpaio and Zullo have announced that they are going to do a national press conference. They’re going to make a full report of the main, the gist, of what it is that they have uncovered. And I can just tell you, that for all of you who have been waiting with bated breath, you will be vindicated. The documents on the White House web site has now been 1000% proven to an absolute criminally fabricated forgery. Continue Reading →

BBC documentary on Trump’s birtherism

Just before the 2016 presidential election, those in the UK got to watch program called “The Trump Dossier” as part of a series called Conspiracy Theories on BBC 2. One of the main focuses of the program is Trump’s birtherism. They interviewed a number of birthers for the program, some of whom appear in it, notably Orly Taitz. Paul Irey also makes an appearance, calling Obama’s birth certificate “the greatest fraud in the history of the world.” Doug Vogt makes an appearance also. Former Trump advisor, Roger Stone, holds the narrative of Trumps involvement in all of the conspiracies together. Larry Klayman gets a shot on the Clinton/Jennifer Flowers story.

Ivan Zatkovich, one of the early expert researchers of Obama’s certificate, is interviewed and gives an opinion that Obama’s certificate is the scan of a real document with contrast enhancement and OCR. (He is right in that there is a form of character recognition done by JBIG2 compression, but it is not properly called OCR.)

The particular claims in the program about Obama’s birth certificate (stuff fully covered in The Debunker’s Guide to Obama Conspiracy Theories):

  • The word “African” would not appear on a legitimate birth certificate from 1961 – Taitz
  • Halos around the text on Obama’s long form PDF prove it’s a computer fake – Irey
  • Loretta was bribed to authenticate Obama’s birth certificate and that she was murdered – Doug Vogt

The second area of the program deals with the conspiracy theory about the involvement of Ted Cruz’ father in the assassination of President Kennedy. This story seems to have come from early birther Wayne Madsen. It suggests that Trump used this conspiracy theory to gain the upper hand in his race against Cruz for the Republican nomination.

Trump turned from “Lyin’ Ted Cruz” to “Lyin’ Hillary Clinton.” The final segment deals with Trump’s claims about Hillary Clinton and the Vince Foster suicide. Trump alleged that Hillary Clinton threatened women into silence that Bill Clinton had affairs with.

The Clintons are more like a crime syndicate than they are a family

— Roger Stone

I was a consultant to the production.