This article refers to an interview with Paul Irey interview on Reality Check Radio in the second hour of the show. It’s a very interesting program. The radio show draws a sharp contrast between the first guest, Linton Mohammed, who is president of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners and has testified as an expert in court over 100 times, and Paul Irey, who is professional typist and commercial printer. Both know a lot about their respective fields, but Mr. Mohammed is a scientist and Mr. Irey is not, and that is the important difference. Mr. Mohammed didn’t comment on the specifics of any of the questioned Obama documents, but he did talk about what could and what could not be reasonably done with multi-generation photocopies.
Paul Irey seems to know a lot about typewriters and printing. He is familiar with the electronic tools available; he knew about scanning, PDF creation, resolution and accurately, so far as I could tell, stated good information. In contrast with a lot of birthers, he never seemed to overstate his case, make stuff up, try to evade a question or lie. I found him a straight-up guy who believed what he said. However, Irey presented a remarkable claim: that Barack Obama’s long form birth certificate is a fake made in collusion with the Hawaii Department of Health.
The first bomb shell in the interview was when Irey made no claim of objectivity, but rather stated unequivocally that he was certain the document was a forgery before he examined it. He says that he knew this because someone from the Secret Service told him that Obama had no birth certificate.
Here’s the transcript at this point:
Irey: … I started to study it, knowing it had to be a forgery, and just looking for what I could find.
Foggy: You knew it was a forgery before you started studying it?…
Irey: Yes, yes. I knew it was a forgery.
Foggy: How’d you know that?
Irey: I had information from a government worker who had a friend at one of the agencies who come back to me after we had a big debate during the time Obama had been, uh, announced for office [inaudible] legitimacy, where’s the birth certificate? We were talking about that way back when, and he debated with me. Went down to his agency and advised me that, uh, that I was right basically. That there was no birth certificate in the records. But his agency was not going to, uh, do anything about it more or less. So I kind of went in with his background. It sort of converted his attitude. I could tell how his attitude changed after that, because he was no longer supporting Obama. I was supporting Colin Powell….
Foggy: I’m not asking you to identify the guy, but can you tell us like what agency? Was it an intelligency agency? I mean can you give us a hint?
Irey: Yes, I can. It was the Secret Service.
Irey: As you know, the Secret Service is, one of their responsibilities is to vet. …
It is not at all clear what the friend, or the Secret Service employee said, and we know that the Secret Service does not have any responsibility to vet candidates and there is no reason to believe the Secret Service has birth certificates for any President in its files. So what actually happened in this exchange remains a mystery.
Irey determined to prove that the Obama long form was a forgery by finding flaws in it. The flaw that he believes he found is that some of the letters are of a different typeface (different typewriter model) than others. Now there is no reason to be certain that a normal birth certificate in Hawaii is all typed on the the same typewriter. It may be that different parts are typed at a different time — this is a point that Linton Mohammed made in his general discussion of the analysis of a typed document. A forensic scientist would never use words like “forgery,” “fake” or “fraud” in testimony but rather state with a particular level of certainty what is observed about similarities and differences. Irey, on the other hand, uses the “f” words liberally.
Let me briefly explain Irey’s argument, and it is really quite simple and can be shown with two images. I took these from my copy of a scan of the long form released to the press. It is generally understood that this is a scan of a second-generation photocopy, i.e., scanned 3 times and printed twice. The following image is “actual size” from the scan, i.e., it’s not blown up.
Irey points out that the horizontal bar in the letter “e” is slanted in one image, and claims that it is impossible for these two to have come from the same typewriter because they are different typefaces. He also says that some of the letters are of different sizes.
One interesting thing about the images here is that the first “e” (from the word “Male” in block 2) appears fuzzy compared to the second “e” (from “Student” in block 12a). This is probably because the birth certificate was not perfectly flat on the scanner glass because it was in a bound book. The first letter is from the left side near and the book’s gutter. Because of the proximity to the gutter a very tiny counterclockwise rotation is expected, however, not as much as the visual impression one gets from this image.
Linton Mohammed said that when a professional document examiner finds differences between a questioned document and an example that is not questioned, the examiner tries to explain the differences, and if they cannot be explained, then the examiner may conclude something like a different typewriter.
Professional document examiners undergo a course of study of the analysis of typed images. Irey claims expertise from long experience, however he admits that he never examined a document in this way before, nor did he claim to have had experience examining scanned second-generation photocopies. The one thing that would have helped Irey, a control, he didn’t do. Irey says that he would like to have performed a similar analysis, but he had no other comparable sample document of suitable resolution to work with. I agree with Irey that such samples are not easy to come by. My own birth certificate, for example, has a much lower image resolution than the Obama certificate. I did my own analysis on my birth certificate and someone else did a similar analysis presented in a YouTube video. Both exercises used lower-resolution documents, and both found wide variations between letters. Paul Irey, I’m sure, believes that if he had a comparable document to test, it would prove authentic and has Jerome Corsi to get him material to analyze. This remains on everybody’s “to do” list.
Let me offer this short outline of the factual content of the interview from memory:
- Irey is not, nor does he claim to be a professional document examiner.
- Irey volunteered that when a document is turned into a PDF, it is separated into layers.
- Irey claims to have extensive experience with typewriters, typography, and commercial printing.
- Irey believes that the State of Hawaii provided a color copy of the long form on security paper (upon which the PDF was based) and a plain paper copy on which the black and white press handout was based.1
- Irey’s analysis was based on the press handout scanned and published by the AP. Irey describes it as “150 dpi”.
- Irey did not attempt to compare his typographic analysis of the Obama long form with an analysis done on a similar document, saying that he didn’t have an example to compare to.
- Irey started his analysis with the certain belief that he was looking at some kind of fake, and was looking for confirmation of that.
- Irey said that he had inside information from the US Secret Service that indicated to him that the birth certificate was faked. However, I think careful reading of the transcript is necessary to parse out his exact claim as to what he was told.
- While Irey was certain that the various letters on the Obama long form came from different model typewriters with different typefaces, he said that the image quality was not sufficient for him to identify any particular typeface from his samples.
All in all, Paul Irey seems to be a straightforward guy. He did not give one hint that he was lying, nor did he seem to be making things up. It’s clear that he’s a hard core birther, bringing up things like the Hawaii Homelands program, and acquainted with the birther story. He stuck by his guns and did not concede anything of substance.
One of the comments made by Mr. Irey is that the AP high-resolution scan of the Obama long form is no longer on the AP web site. I don’t know about that, but I made a copy of one of the press scans, which is available. Mine appears to be something in the order of 400 ppi, though. A link to this scan is also to be found in the lower right corner of my site under Quick Reference. The scan is interesting because it appears that Obama’s short form birth certificate was behind the long form as it was scanned because you can see faintly the bleed through and can read “ISLAND OF OAHU” an “HOUR OF BIRTH” faintly.
- Fundamentals of Forensic Science
- Daily KOS defends typography of Killian letters as authentic (RatherGate)
- Forensic document examiners and the Killian letters
- Article on forensic typewriter analysis
1This is obviously wrong. One need only look at the darker portions of the form, at the page gutter to see the security paper. It appears that the photocopier used didn’t copy the light green background. Since it is security paper, one might expect it not to copy well.