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Security paper and halos

OnakaHaloSo I bought some security paper. It’s nice security paper, but it’s not quite like the Hawaiian certificate paper. That’s no surprise, but if we want to do a good job replicating the White House PDF of the President’s long form birth certificate, we’re going to need to make a good original to work from.

Despite the obviously crude birth certificate that appeared in the Garrett Papit video (now scrubbed), the Cold Case Posse originally claimed to have used real security paper. This is what Mike Zullo said in the Cold Case Posse’s first press conference:

… the President’s birth certificate released by the White House was an electronic document, we literally had the capability to go into that file and turn off the green safety paper background. Anybody that gets documents anywhere realizes that safety paper is supposed to be a source of comfort that it is an official document. We had the ability to turn it off.

We turned if off and we scanned the President’s birth certificate onto a hard copy paper document, a paper, a safety paper document we actually laid his birth certificate on top of.

As always, what Zullo said is misleading. He would lead the listener to think that that he could turn off the safety paper background and leave the rest of the document intact, but of course that’s not true (details below). If one turns off the background layer, much of the form, text and signatures goes away with it.

The halos are an interesting artifact, basically white areas around the text. You can see it here in this example around the word “Mother”.

Detail of block 15 from Obama birth certificate showing blank space around the letters

The halos (actually blank areas) appear all throughout the document, prominent when you look the background layer of the PDF by itself (click for full-sized image).Background layer of Obama birth certificate, showing security paper, signatures and form lines

Of course, birthers say that these blank spaces were places where the information from someone else was cut out to put Obama information in place it when combining certificates. That theory falls apart looking at the background layer without the text at full size. You can read the text by just the halos! So they aren’t the result of removing something else.

But what Zullo said, no matter how much nonsense it was, had a useful hint. Even though turning off the background layer would obscure much of the certificate, there would still be some black text left, and that text, printed onto security paper would make for a good test for halos.

Thanks to a suggestion from a commenter here, I’ve ordered some more security paper that may be closer to the Hawaii design. I have high hopes for a good test document to test halos ANY DAY NOW. 😈


There has been some chatter about testing the Xerox WorkCentre 7655 to test whether it produces halos scanning a birth certificate. The problem testing with a printout of Obama’s PDF is that it already has halos (white outlines around the letters). Birthers seem to think that no paper document of Obama’s birth certificate exists, never mind that the entire White House Press corps saw it held up, and at least one felt it and took picture. They think that images of existing birth certificates had text cut out, and that these halos were where the prior text was removed. That’s an odd view, because it basically means that ALL the text had to be removed, even the preprinted items on the form.

A forger wouldn’t do all that extra work to create something that looks odd. Let me present an unbiased opinion—my own. You see, back in August of 2009, almost 2 years before Obama released his long form birth certificate in a PDF file, halos and all, on the Internet, I made a reconstruction of what I thought the long form would look like, should it ever be released. That file appears below (click to enlarge):

Do you see any halos? Of course not. I just laid text onto the background. I wasn’t trying to make a forgery and there are all manner of technical faults in my sample document. If I were actually making a forgery, I would get a sample of the basket weave paper, print my fake certificate on it, and scan it back. That is not only the easiest way, but the most similar to an authentic one. (Also note the perfect spacing of the typewriter fonts I added—none of that silly “kerning” that the birthers think is a forgery.) If there ever were an inept forger, I’m that one. But even my essay intended to fool no one doesn’t have the genuine anomalies of a worn typewriter and extreme mixed raster content compression.

To assist testing halo creation with Xerox, I’ve attempted to create a “better” sample certificate. What I did was to make some safety paper by tiling blank areas from the high-resolution scan of Obama’s computer-generated Certification of Live Birth (I didn’t try to line them up) and then using the Associated Press photocopy of the long form, with the blue background changed to white. So if you want to test, just print out the first, the background, and then the second, the form and text. Voila, you have your own long form birth certificate copy, with no halos whatever.

Halos are evidence in favor of MRC compression and against a human forger.

Halos revisited

While the internal characteristics of the White House PDF have been explained in great detail by blogger NBC, using a simple workflow involving a Xerox WorkCentre office machine and the Mac Preview program, there remains to be studied the issue of “halos.” The halos are basically light areas surrounding the text. Birthers say that the halo effect comes from using the “unsharp mask” in Adobe Photoshop and that it means somebody forged the document.

While I have written a little on halos, I have never considered it significant after I made two observations: a scholarly paper on MRC compression says that halos are one of the things that MRC does, and when I saw a special function in Adobe Acrobat (that also does a form of MRC compression) to remove halos. I also observed that the PDF file from the US National Archives of the Certificate of the California Electoral College vote in 2012 had halos too (it was an Adobe creation) as did a scan of my own birth certificate.

However, rooting around in my emails today, I came across a curious document. It is a JPG created from the White House PDF, sent to me by birther image expert Garrett Papit, and it has no halos. I don’t know where he got this from, or how it was made, but it has no halos (click to enlarge).

So if you can print the White House PDF without halos, one has to ask whether they are actually in the PDF, or whether they are created by the programs used to view the PDF to make the text appear sharper. I don’t know.

In any case, if one wanted an original without halos to scan as a test, the document preceding might be a good candidate.


Ok, it’s a fake insofar as it is a true print from the White House PDF. You can see that it derives from the White House PDF by looking at the faded “R” in “BARACK”:


However, it’s not authentic because the security paper is positioned differently in relation to the text as can be seen easily in the following comparison (the White House PDF above). Notice particularly the position of the security pattern beneath the word “OF”:image


I don’t know whether Papit tried to trick me (more or less successfully) or if he was fooled himself.


imageIf [a halo]  is something that would be created by a scanner there, then we would have seen it in every birth certificate, however we see it only in Obama’s.

Orly Taitz

Of course the State of Hawaii doesn’t issue scanned birth certificates, they issue real ones on paper. On a real birth certificate black text is printed on colored paper, and the toner in the printer/copier is one color, black. It doesn’t print white. It’s only in scanning where software deals with the best way to show an image and where something that’s not black and white can appear.

We know that Mixed Raster Content (MRC) compression creates halos, as indicated in this academic article on MRC compression.

Birther scanner guru Douglas Vogt claims that it was not PDF optimization via MRC compression that created the halos because the scanned copy given to the Press also has halos, like the the White House PFD file. He said:

We used the reporters copy from one of the networks that was at the April 27, 2011 news conference. At 300 dpi it showed us all we needed to know. By the way the white halo is caused by unsharp mask and finally Mara Z. agreed with us. The white halo appeared both on the reporters copy and Savanna Guthrie’s copy so it was not part of any PDF manipulation.

Let’s look at what Vogt is talking about. First here’s a hugely magnified snip from the PDF file (magnified more than the resolution actually in the document).


And here’s a bit from the Press copy at its actual resolution:


It’s a little hard to see the white space around the letters in the second example, but compare the word “not” in the two examples to note that it’s really “not” the same effect and the halos are in different places. Let me zoom in ridiculously on that word for you. In one you see no halo to the left of the “n” and in the other there is.








All of this ZBAR (zooming beyond all recognition) is rather silly, and really what I wanted to get to was Orly’s claim about all Hawaiian birth certificates all lacking halos. How many did she examine? I would speculate that the number is between zero and not many. I did look at one that’s been on the Internet for quite a while, the certificate for “Alan” from 1963 and darned if there isn’t just a little halo there, rather like what we see on the Press copy of Obama’s certificate.


Alexander Pope quotes:

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.

Birther image analysis has always been based on shallow knowledge, guided by bias and amplified by the Dunning-Kruger effect. I won’t say I never learned something from a birther image analyst, but I never found their conclusions correct.

Read more:

The annotated Orly

Below I reproduce an article by Orly Taitz that describes a phone conversation between the two of us this afternoon. I wanted to clarify and correct some points. On the phone she said some things that I didn’t agree with, but for the purpose of not extending the conversation too long, didn’t object to and which she might have taken by mistake as agreement. There were some other times where I didn’t have an opportunity to say all I could have said. Orly talks fast and it is sometimes difficult to get a word in. So here’s Orly’s version in normal type with my annotations in bold.

I just got of the phone with Kevin Davidson, who runs a blog “Dr. Conspiracy” Mr. Davidson was a leader of the Obama technical defense on the internet for 4 years. I have written on technical issues related to Obama conspiracies for 4 years.

We had a civil conversation, we agreed to disagree on a number of technical (and other) issues.

Mr. Davidson allowed me to write on my blog about our conversation. He stated that he part-owned a software company which dealt with scanning birth certificates, converting information and creating computerised birth certificates.

We agreed on two main points:

1. Computer image posted by Obama on is not a document, it is just a coputer image, it is not a certified copy, it cannot be used by anybody for any purpose. I said that the uncertified image is not legal proof of citizenship.

2. Certified copy differs from the computer printout (differs from a copy or a scanned image) in that a certified copy contains ultraviolet safety feature (I am informed that this is true of Hawaii certificates but do not know it of my own personal knowledge), which is built in the security paper. when you get your passport you have to provide a proper document: an original (I didn’t say “original”) or a certified copy with proper security features. If there is a reason to doubt authenticity of the document, then an original needs to be examined. I said, in the context of a court using a certified copy of a birth certificate as evidence, that persuasive reasons were needed, not just doubts, to require other evidence. Continue Reading →

California electoral vote certification forged?

One of the certain proofs that the birthers give for forgery is that certain parts of Obama’s long form birth certificate show a mix of black and white, and gray scale for a signature. Here’s a section from the Certificate magnified:

Detail of Stanley Ann Dunham signature on Obama's birth certifcate

You can see how some of the signature is in gray scale, and some is absolutely black.

Now, look at the Certificate of the California Electoral College vote from the web site of the US National Archives and Records Administration, particularly on signature number 42 magnified:

Detail from 2012 California Electoral College signature.

Wowzers. It’s that same mix of grey scale and black. I guess this means that Romney really won California, and National Archives substituted a forged computer-generated certificate of the vote in place of the real one California sent. Apparently the National Archivist was smart enough to tell the scanner to get rid of the halos.

Dialog showing "Halo Removal" option