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French customs official facing charges over Obama passport photo

Radio France International is reporting that a French customs official, who had a friend take a picture of him holding Barack Obama’s passport which he had just stamped, has been suspended from duty.

RFI wrote:

Barack Obama may have published a copy of his birth certificate but his minders don’t want photographs of his passport circulating.

Longtime readers here know that there is a White House video that features Obama’s passport. However, for some reason the issue date on the White House video is intentionally blurred. Perhaps the French photo reveals the hidden date? Unlikely, but we can only speculate as the French photo has not appeared.

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When is a long form not a long form?

This is a real conversation that just took place — not something you would hear in just any household…

Dad: Well if you want to go to Canada, the first thing you will need is a Passport.
Son: I don’t have one of those.
Dad: And to get a passport you’ll need a birth certificate.
Son: I vaguely remember one, but I haven’t seen it in years.
Dad: I think I have a copy, but it won’t do you any good. Starting April 1, 2011 your South Carolina birth card won’t be valid for a passport application because it doesn’t have the parents’ names on it. Look at this South Carolina specimen card circa 1977. You see that it has much of the needed information, but not parent’s names.
Son: I guess I will have to order a birth certificate and I expect that I can do that on the Internet.
Dad: Sure, you can go to VitalChek.com, but they charge a fee that about doubles the price of the certificate. It’s better to order one directly from the State. Then you can use an online form to fill out your passport application. The good news is that starting April 1, 2011, our local post office will be a Passport Acceptance Facility.

What was interesting, though, was what I found on the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control web site. South Carolina produces three types of birth certificate. The first is the birth card that can be gotten at any county health office on a walk-in basis (not good for travel). The second is “computer-generated long form” that’s pretty similar to President Obama’s COLB (no doctor or hospital name). The third:

Certified copies of the actual birth certificate that was filed by the attendant at birth will only be issued when a computer-generated form is not available.

Sorry Senator Graham, no presidential run for you.

Notre Dame law professor dives into birther waters

Charles E. Rice, professor emeritus of the University of Notre Dame Law School has an article widely repeated on birther web sites about Barack Obama’s eligibility.

Partisan

I am suggesting that Professor Rice has not taken on his topic, Barack Obama: Is he or Isn’t he an American citizen?, out of academic curiosity, but as an anti-Obama partisan. Rice’s official biography includes: “He served for eight years as State Vice-Chairman of the New York State Conservative Party.” Rice is no friend of Barack Obama either, as evidenced by this article on Rice’s book, titled What Happened to Notre Dame? that includes this opening paragraph.

When the University of Notre Dame announced that President Barack Obama would speak at its 2009 Commencement and would receive an honorary doctor of laws degree, the reaction was more than anyone expected. Students, faculty, alumni, and friends of Notre Dame denounced the honoring of Obama, who is the most relentlessly pro-abortion public official in the world. Beyond abortion, Obama has taken steps to withdraw from health-care professionals the right of conscientious objection.

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Passportgate

It seems that a certain group who deny (mistakenly) that Barack Obama is eligible to be president of the United States extend their point of view to denying every aspect of President Obama’s life including his birth certificate, his religion, his political views and, most recently, his US Passport.

Barack Obama traveled to Indonesia as a child, and to do that he needed a passport. To obtain a US passport, one needs to be and to prove that one is a US citizen. This is a sticky problem for the birther’s “Kenyan-born Obama,” one that would seem insoluble for birthers in an age before short form birth certificates. This is why false claims of lax birth registration laws in Hawaii and lying grandmothers were invented.

Later when it was learned that Barack Obama visited Pakistan as a college student, this offered another opportunity to deny Obama held a legitimate US passport, an opportunity that manifest in a demonstrably false story of a travel ban to Pakistan for persons traveling on US passports.

A recent White House video shows President Obama’s US Diplomatic Passport, and entry/visa stamps from various countries that he’s visited since becoming president, that carried the statement, anathema to the birthers, “the bearer is President of the United States.” Not surprisingly, this document is being “questioned” on the Internet including the web site: White House Fraud.

Let’s put the Obama Conspiracy Theories magnifying glass on this story.

One hardly begins to read when the first odd statement appears: “They never showed the cover of the passport from which they showed his picture (which is significant since it would show if it was a diplomatic one or not ).”

President Obama's Passport Cover

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The passport hypothesis

In this article, I present the hypothesis that Barack Obama traveled with his mother to Indonesia on his mother’s family passport, but returned to the United States on his own individual passport.

1. In the past, the United States issued family passports for families traveling with children.

2. My Freedom of Information Act request has been hung up with a State Department legal team since last July, the second time it has been to legal. The passport applications for Stanley Ann Dunham have already been released to Strunk, so there should be no legal issue there. However, since I asked for passports issued rather than applications, and because we know that passport issuance cards exist on microfilm, the 1965 passport under which Stanley Ann Dunham traveled to Indonesia would exist on this microfilm record. Passport applications, however, were destroyed for this period, and the Department of State did not have to deal with the 1965 passport in the Strunk case.

If the 1965 passport did include Barack Obama, the Department of State is presented with a legal dilemma. They cannot release the passport card itself because it contains information about a living person, contrary to their rules. On the other hand, they cannot redact the name of Barack Obama because the very act of redaction discloses that he was on the passport, since he is publicly known to be the only child of Stanley Ann Dunham. We know that routine passport query from 2009 only takes 4 months, so there must be a complication. This is the only complication that makes sense.

3. When Stanley Ann Dunham (then Soetoro) renewed her passport in 1968, we see that she filled in the name Barack Hussein Obama on the back of the renewal form under an amendment to exclude him from the passport. The same lines are used to include or exclude and the cross hatches reasonably indicate that he was to be excluded. Unfortunately, my hypothesis sheds no light on the mysterious Soebarkah.

Back page of Obama passport renewal application from 1968

The hypothesis may be  difficult to prove, at least through FOIA since the documentation involves Barack Obama, a living person.

Problems with the hypothesis (of which I know 2) are left as a exercise for the reader.

New hope for the Doc’s FOIA

Christopher Strunk filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for passport applications of President Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. He received his results and they were, to say the least, disappointing. One side wants to see that she had a passport in 1961 that would have enabled her to travel to Africa for the birth of Barack Obama, and the other side wants to see that she had none, and couldn’t have made the trip. The Department of State says that passport applications for 1925 to 1965  have been destroyed as part of a cost cutting move. All we got was a reference to an application from 1965, but not the application itself.

I have speculated here that my FOIA, which like Strunk’s asked for Stanley Ann Dunham’s passport records, may yield different results because while Strunk asked for “passport applications”, I asked for “passports issued.” I reasoned that surely the Department of State keeps records of passports issued distinct from the applications.

Apparently I was right. While researching the background of the destruction of the passport applications, and the “pressure” (according to a State Department internal memo released to Strunk) to reduce storage costs, I came across a GAO report from August 6, 1981 titled Management of the Department of State Office of Passport Services Needs To Be Improved.

Chapter 4 of the report deals with the costs of record retention and the argument made by the Department of State for longer retention periods. State argued that a passport application might provide proof of the citizenship of the parent of a child born overseas (and hence evidence of the child’s citizenship). The GAO countered that persons born after 1925 could obtain birth certificates from state and local sources, and that in any case:

Should the Department need to verify if a parent was ever issued a passport, old passport issue cards have been microfilmed and can be referenced by the Department.

Document page 30, PDF page 44

That is, in the year immediately prior to the commencement of the passport application destruction project in 1982, there existed a card file of passports issued, on microfilm, for records from 1925 on.

I think the background in this 1981 GAO report should lay to rest any questions about the passport destruction project for old passport applications. There remains the fact that the records disposition forms for the passport application destruction have not been located in the national archives so far. However, the statute in force in 1981 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 33, § 3303) made the Administrator of the GAO responsible for approving record destruction (changed in 1984 to the National Archivist) and clearly the GAO was all for it. The National Archivist agreed, saying:

…passport application file records except for federally issued vital records ‘* * * are disposable because they do not have sufficient value for purposes of historical or other research, functional documentation or protection of individual rights to warrant permanent retention by the Federal Government.”

The GAO report recommended that the Secretary of State:

  • initiate a project to separate permanent records from disposable passport records,
  • adjust the retention schedule from 100 years to 15 years for disposable passport records originating from 1925 to the first half of 1978, and
  • adjust the retention schedule for disposable passport records that have been microfilmed from 15 years to the validity period of a passport.