The facts: In June of 2008, an image of a Hawaiian Certification of Live Birth for Barack Hussein Obama II appeared on a web site called the Daily Kos. Similar images would appear at Barack Obama’s Fight the Smears web site, along with FactCheck.org and Politifact.com. A small optical flaw in the scanned image shows that all came from the same physical scan of the paper document, and that the various images had been resized.
The theory: Various theories have been put forward claiming that the image has been manipulated in some way. One theory is that the Certification belongs to Obama, but has been changed, possibly changing his middle name from Mohamed to Hussein or changing his place of birth from some foreign place to Hawaii. The other is that the certificate originally belonged some someone else and “Obama” (not born in Hawaii) was put on it. Another theory is that the document was made up from scratch and overlaid onto security paper.
Contextual objections to the document: There are a couple of things usually mentioned: That the father’s race is “African” the other that the Certificate Number is blacked out. It is said that in the 1960’s “African” would not have been an option on a Birth Certificate application. The blacked-out certificate number would hide an invalid or re-used number from someone else. A further objection is that there is no raised state seal visible, nor is there a state registrar’s signature or stamp.
Analysis of contextual objections: The “African” issue comes from a misconception of how “Race” is collected on birth registration forms. Birth data is collected on a “worksheet” from information provided by the father and the mother. This is then transcribed (typed) onto a paper document. The National Center for Health Statistics standards say the the preferable source of information for Father’s Race is the father. The definition of the item is: “The race(s) that best describes what the father considers himself to be.” For this reason, what ever term was current in the United States in 1961 would not be relevant to how Obama’s Kenyan father would answered the question. The answer was not restricted to being selected from a prescribed list. Indeed the appearance of the unconventional value of “African” is a sign of authenticity, since only an African such as Barack Obama, Sr. would be likely to think of it. If you doubt that Africans used the term in 1961, I offer the following example (from among scores available through your favorite search engine):
” I believe strongly and sincerely that with the deep-rooted wisdom and dignity, the innate respect for human lives, the intense humanity that is our heritage, the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.”
I Speak of Freedom (1961), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana)
The Certificate Number, the seal and signature are available from subsequent photos on the FactCheck.org web site, making these objections moot. The seal, which was applied to the back of the document making it difficult to see from the front with lighting that creates no shadows. Nevertheless, the careful viewer can see the seal in all of the images, as well as a hint of the fold claimed to be absent.
A further objection was raised by Ron Polarik once the certificate number was made public, that the certificate number was out of line with the date of Obama’s birth. It turns out that the number is what it should be and this is discussed in
Obama Birth Certificate Number proves it’s a fake – busted
Technical objections to the Image are discussed starting in Barack Obama’s Birth Certificate is a Forgery – Part 2.