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The six document experts

This is an adaptation of a comment I made at Birther Report.

First, there is no truth whatever in the oft-repeated comment that the so-called anomalies in the President’s PDF birth certificate file pointed out by birthers cannot be recreated in controlled repeatable experiments on real documents with real scanners. It was true at one time, but not any more. These experiments were published by the scientist who did them, and subjected to review. You can read all that here (and other articles on that site):

The blogger Reality Check also made some videos and a series of popular articles on the findings.

Papit, Papa, Zebest, Vogt and the rest have been made irrelevant.

I do have 6 experts, all of whom have the credentials to testify in court. Here is what WorldNet Daily writer Aaron Klein said about 3 of them:

I decided to go to actual, to some of the nation’s foremost forensic graphic analysts, and I don’t mind naming their names: Jim Pex at International Forensic Experts, also John Berryhill the President and COO of Berryhill Computer Forensics, I[v]an Zatkovich at eComputer Consultants, all with years of expert in criminal and civil testimony. They have consulted for graphics forensic expertise for such companies as Citicorp, McGraw Hill, other major publishing firms, online, others. So, they’re incredibly qualified.

Klein went on to say that none of them found fakery. WorldNetDaily refused to release any of these reports, and recently when I tried to mention them in comments on their site, they BANNED me. Here is the transcript of what Aaron Klein said on his WABC radio program:

WorldNetDaily talked about the Zatkovich report, misrepresenting it, forcing Zatkovich to publish it himself. You can read that here:

The 4th expert is Dr. Neal Krawetz, noted security expert, expert on faked images, forensic software author (see his site) and frequent speaker at conferences. You can read his comments here:

The 5th is Ken Colburn founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services & Data Forensics Labs appearing in an interview on a Phoenix TV station. Here is what he said after looking at the Cold Case Posse presentation:

When I first saw it it was very convincing until we did our test and saw that, wait a minute, our scanner does the same thing.

Here is a link to the video at USA Today.

My prior 5 experts are good, but the 6th expert is the one that I put the most faith in, because he is an expert in exactly the subject under discussion. Dr. Ricardo de Queiroz was a former research scientist for Xerox, and a patent holder in the very compression technology that has so confused the birthers. He is the author of an academic paper on mixed raster content compression (one that discusses why there are halos, for example), and he informally looked at the Obama PDF and responded that it looked like MRC compression to him. Of all the people commenting, he is the one most qualified to look at the PDF and say what it is. Here’s a copy of his paper in the Journal of Electronic Imaging mentioning halos:

His comments on the Obama PDF are informal, made in an email.

One final remark on Reed Hayes. Being an expert in one thing doesn’t make someone an expert in everything. The reason that I cannot accept any opinion from Reed Hayes as an expert opinion without first reading his report is that I cannot know whether his report is about something he is an expert in, or whether its conclusions are based on something he is not an expert in. Depending on what Hayes says, he may be an expert, or he may not.


Waiting for the other shoe to drop

Things are sort of quiet on the birther front and I’m waiting for something interesting to happen. There are a couple of dropping shoes that I’m waiting for.

First is some development in the Arpaio/Montgomery story. We learned that Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been spending 6 figures on information from a notorious scammer about federal judge G. Murray Snow and US Attorney General Eric Holder. This is apparently some offshoot of the Cold Case Posse investigation of Obama’s birth certificate. I and commenters here have posted their speculations. What I’m waiting for is a public response from the Sheriff’s Office or from another media article confirming or expanding the story.

The second shoe belongs to Reed Hayes. It’s no accident that my article about Google queries featured the keyword–it came from my Google alerts. There was a strong indication a while back that Hayes was going to post something on his web site related to his examination for Mike Zullo of a second or third-generation copy1 of the Obama birth certificate. What I once, but no longer strongly suspect is that poster Joe Mannix at Birther Report is Mike Zullo and that what he said about the Reed Hayes report is authoritative:

Of course. Reed is a master at detecting forgeries, especially when people try to mimic other peoples signatures on such things such as checks or birth certificates as in this case. He detects anomalies in forged signatures the average person can’t recognize. He immediately knew something was wrong after looking at the document hence why he called Mike back within 20 minutes.

That’s about all we know, and “know” is even too strong a word. It would be great for the other shoe to drop and we learn from Hayes himself what he thinks about how his work has been characterized. We remember that Ivan Zatkovich eventually spoke out against how his work had been buried and mischaracterized by WorldNetDaily.

1I consider the White House PDF to be a digitally compressed second-generation copy. The birth certificate itself is a photocopy of the original onto security paper. Scanning to PDF and display on a computer monitor, or printer gives the second generation.  (Considerable confusion has arisen from the complex digital compression involved in the creation of the PDF). The AP press scan is from photocopy (or perhaps a photocopy of a photocopy) of the certified copy, then imaged and displayed making it the third (or fourth) generation.

The Hayes dilemma

Photo of Hayes examining ransom note in JohBenet Ramsey murder caseI wonder if Reed Hayes, credentialed handwriting expert, has ever been in this situation before. He’s produced a report for Mike Zullo1 that expresses an opinion on the authenticity of President Obama’s long-form birth certificate. I would think that in just about every other job Hayes has taken that his reports are either made public (as in testimony in court) or they are kept private, being only of interest to the parties involved in the controversy over a document. Has he ever before provided a report whose contents are characterized widely in public, but whose client tells him not to talk about it?

It did happen before: a respected document examiner in 2011 did a report on that same long-form birth certificate, its contents were characterized in public, and the folks doing the characterization (WorldNetDaily) refused to publish the actual report. In that case the examiner, Ivan Zatkovich, felt it necessary to publish the report himself because it was being mischaracterized and his conclusions distorted. You can read my 2011 article on this affair, “WND document expert says: not quite accurate.”

Conspiracy theorists try to prove things by asking open-ended questions and expect the reader come to a conclusion. What follows is a number of questions I have, but I do not expect the reader to come to a conclusion; in fact, I intend exactly the opposite. By posing these questions, I hope that the reader will recognize the difficulty of arriving at a conclusion.

  1. What does the Hayes Report say?
  2. Reed Hayes is certified as a forensic document examiner by the National Association of Document Examiners. Which if any of the forensic disciplines that fall under that certification was used by Hayes in arriving at his conclusions.2
  3. It is well-documented that the forensic disciplines involving pattern matching (handwriting, fingerprints, bite marks, etc.) are subject to bias when the expert is supplied additional information in advance about the case. What did Zullo say to Hayes in the way of additional information about the case before Hayes did an analysis? Did Zullo simply give Hayes copies of his discredited reports from his birther volunteers, and ask him to buy in to them, or did Hayes start with a fresh slate and do an independent analysis? In any case, it is unlikely that Hayes was unaware of the claims of the birthers. What was Hayes’ opinion of birthers before Zullo showed up?
  4. Are there available any other reports by Hayes in other cases? Has he ever testified in federal court, and if so, what case?
  5. It is generally acknowledged among handwriting experts, that reliable conclusions require examination of original documents not photocopies. How did Hayes get around this problem?
  6. It is reported by Zullo that Hayes is a registered Democrat. Apart from the fact that voters don’t register by party in Hawaii, did Hayes vote for the Democratic Presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama? Conspiracy theorist and birther Phil Berg was a Democrat, but not an Obama supporter.
  7. What is meant by the statement reportedly by Hayes that the birth certificate is a 100% forgery? Hayes himself has said that handwriting analysis is only 80-90% accurate. Where does the 100% come from, and how certain does Hayes actually say that he is of his conclusions in his report. Finally, it would be interesting to know why Hayes took the case when reportedly over 200 of his colleagues turned it down.

If what Zullo says is true, and he has fairly characterized the Hayes Report, we may conclude that Reed Hayes has indeed gone over Niagara Falls in a leaky barrel, but there are just too many unanswered questions to jump to any conclusions just yet.

I realize that Reed Hayes has been asked by his client not to discuss the report, but I would welcome any comments from him on the generalities raised here. He can reply in comments or on the site’s contact form.

1I say “for Mike Zullo” as a matter of convenience. The best information I have is an email reproduced at The Fogbow reportedly from Hayes stating:

I did in fact perform work for Mr. Zullo with respect to the Obama Certificate of Live Birth. However, the results are strictly confidential, to be released only by Mr. Zullo and/or the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Posse, the legal owners of my report. Please contact Mr. Zullo directly for answers to your questions.

2According to Zullo, the Hayes Report includes these words:

based on my observations and findings, it is clear that Certificate of Live Birth I examined is not a scan of an original paper birth certificate, but a digitally manufactured documented  created by utilizing material from various sources.

That conclusion does not to seem to come from any of the forensic disciplines certified by the NADE. We have one independent source for what Hayes concluded from RealityCheck who reports an email he received from Hayes saying:

Thanks for inquiring about the Obama birth certificate. Yes, I did an examination and have concluded the birth certificate released by the White House is indeed fabricated.

White House birth certificate: not identical to original

Experts agree

The doubters of Barack Obama’s birth certificate have pointed out that the State of Hawaii in its various statements and official verifications of the long-form Hawaii birth certificate released as a PDF file in April of 2011 decline to declare the White House image “identical” to the original, or to say that it is an “exact copy.” There is a growing consensus among experts that it is not, and cannot be identical to the original or an exact copy.

One expert is Kevin Davidson, a blogger who writes under the nom de Internet of Dr. Conspiracy. Davidson has over 35 years experience in the production of birth certificates and has worked on vital statistics information systems in 13 states. From the beginning Davidson has raised issues about the difference between whatever original document exists in Hawaii and what the White House released. He wrote on  on his blog, Obama Conspiracy Theories, on April 27, 2011:

Finally, I want to comment on what the long form physically is. It is the original certificate from a bound volume photocopied (hence the curved edge) onto security paper. The date stamp and the state registrar’s stamp were then added below….

The original birth certificate, as noted by Davidson, was altered in at least four significant ways, possibly by the Hawaii Department of Health itself:

  1. Green basket weave security paper was added
  2. The Registrar’s stamp was added
  3. A date stamp was added
  4. Straight lines are changed to curves

In later articles Davidson, after reviewing photos taken of the paper document by NBC News White House Correspondent Savannah Guthrie, and after applying photo enhancement techniques to her photos, proved beyond doubt that further alteration was done to add the seal of the Hawaii Department of Health to the image of the vault copy.

Changes to the image

Beyond the changes and additions prior to the creation of the PDF noted by Davidson, other forensic documents experts have determined that White House PDF image itself had been altered.

Credentialed forensic document examiner Ivan Zatkovich in an April 29, 2011, report commissioned by WorldNetDaily, discussed his conversation with the Hawaii Department of Health in which they confirmed Davidson’s statement that the original in the department files was black on white paper, but Zatkovich added:

… my analysis indicates that there were modifications made to the PDF …

Most of the text in the document is surrounded by a white border which would not have been part of the Green copy produced by Hawaii. …

Only four days after the birth certificate was produced, two experts had found that it was not identical to the original!

Poorly done changes

Not only was the White House PDF version of Obama’s birth certificate altered, it was altered poorly, as indicated by internationally-recognized expert on electronic document processing, Ricardo de Queiroz of the University of Brazil. He wrote in an email to John Woodman:

The document has poor quality and it has been aggressively processed, no questions about it. The question is whether the corruptive processing was individual with the intent of forging it, or if it was automated within regular MRC segmentation.

If it was a forgery it was a very sloppy job. Any photoshop-knowledgeable person, of the garden variety, can do a much better job than that. If it is automated, it is a lousy job too, but bear in mind that algorithms for these jobs are not trained on specific documents. They were more likely developed, trained and tested on magazine pages and books. A US birth certificate is unlikely to give good results because it may be an outlier in the big picture of all documents they had in mind when developed their MRC tool.

Davidson added that the PDF processing converted gray-scale portions of the document to two-color bitmaps that resulted in the appearance of “TXE” in the Registrar’s stamp and the whimsical smiley face in Dr. Onaka’s signature.


It is clear from the testimony of three experts, one in vital records, one in forensic document examination, and one in computer processing of images, that the White House PDF image of Barack Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate is not identical in appearance to the original in Hawaii.

As to the further question of forgery, these experts respond:

  • Zatkovich: consistent with someone attempting to enhance the appearance of the document rather than change the content.
  • de Queiroz: I do not see that.
  • Davidson: Me neither.

As for the information on the certificate, Obama’s date of birth, place of birth and birth name, the State of Hawaii has verified that on multiple occasions, and those aspects of the original certificate are not in doubt.

Aaron Klein reverses spin

ConWebWatch quotes from the recent interview between Aaron Klein and Mike Zullo about the Cold Case Posse’s investigation of President Obama’s birth certificate:

Klein declared once again that “I personally also hired three independent forensic investigators. … All three came back with the same conclusion, and that was there was modifications on the PDF file that they could not explain, that are not consistent with a normal scanned document.”

It’s funny the way Klein characterizes those conclusions from the experts a year later. When he had just finished reading them last year, his take was different as evidenced by his WABC radio broadcast from May 1, 2011. This is what Klein said then:

What [the three forensic investigators] told me first of all is that the image online can never, really, fully be verified. You actually have to look at the original document to verify that it’s real, to get technical, but the bottom line is this: let me read to you from the report. This is a twelve-page report commissioned by this program and WND, for example from eComputer Consultants, but all of the reports were essentially the same. Now, the individual who wrote this [Ivan Zatkovich] is a principal consultant for eComp Consultants. He has had years of experience testifying in federal criminal court, civil litigation, so what he said is several things: first of all, that "a certificate was produced by the State of Hawaii and then copied onto green safety paper, which is normal procedure." Then he says, "The green copy paper was then scanned, presumably by the White House, to produce a PDF document.” They can actually get to the exact time and date that this document was scanned; that it is consistent with when the White House said that they first requested the document from the State of Hawaii.

Now, interesting, there are modifications on the document, in specific that there are some layers, but also white halo. He says that all of the modifications to the PDF document can be identified and are consistent with someone enhancing the readability of the document, so in other words, it seems that somebody in the White House did make an enhancement to the document so perhaps, so that people can read it. He said that “there is no specific evidence of how or why any content has been changed, but there is clear evidence,” and this is interesting, “that the document was changed, but very likely enhanced so that we can better read it.” But even that does show that there is a part of the document that was changed. This is not conspiracy; this is some of the nation’s foremost document experts.

But let’s put that aside.[22:03] It would have to be a massive conspiracy, and I don’t want to get into that, that the State of Hawaii was involved in, in order to fake this document. I believe that this document is absolutely real. There is no evidence that it is not. And there would have to be a grand, crazy conspiracy for the State of Hawaii to be involved in faking a birth certificate. I don’t want to even get into that on this program.

And actually, the bottom line is that now Obama has done his part to show that he was born in Hawaii. The onus is no longer on Obama to show that. The onus is on somebody else. If somebody else can produce conclusive evidence that Obama was born somewhere else, so that this birth certificate is not real, that’s a different story, but that hasn’t happened, so we have to accept that Obama was born, and this is the evidence as of now, in Hawaii.[22:50]

WorldNetDaily cherry-picked Zatkovich’s report in an article published the same day as Klein’s radio broadcast, but WND never published the report itself. Zatkovich in an email to me described the WND article as “not quite accurate.” Zatkovich sent me a copy of his report, and subsequently published it on his company web site.

Catching up

Somebody was complaining in a comment that I shouldn’t spend all my time going after the Cold Case Posse. Actually, I don’t spend all my time doing that. I spent an extremely enjoyable afternoon today with Ms. Conspiracy watching The Dark Knight Rises at the theater after a nice lunch at a local restaurant. Both were excellent. This morning I did some real work on my part-time software contract and finished up a major milestone. I did some stuff outside, took some steps towards getting a property tax issue corrected. Yesterday, of course, I was tied up getting my air conditioning repaired.

So I do lots of other things; however, the side effect of not spending all my time on birther stuff is that when birthers get busy, I get behind, as I am now.

I wanted to write a retrospective on the Cold Case Posse articles I published over the weekend, and that takes up the next paragraph.

I made a strong attack on the Cold Case Posse and pursued it vigorously. Frankly, I had the delusional hope that if birthers could be shown a bald-faced lie from one of their darlings, that they might start paying more attention to details and evidence. That is of course silly, as I learned from comments on YouTube. Birthers believe their own, not evidence. They will make up a convenient lie or spin it, and birthers will believe as they always have. They have been led to believe that nothing the Obots say is credible.

Let me talk about experts for a minute. WorldNetDaily already misrepresented one credentialed expert who looked at the long-form birth certificate back in 2011, Ivan Zatkovich. Zatkovich responded by publishing himself the report commissioned by WND, but never published by them. Instead WND cherry picked quotes from the report to make it sound like the Obama’s PDF was highly suspicious.  However, there is some truth to what Mike Zullo said about experts being unwilling to touch the long form. Two credentialed experts I’ve heard from are appalled by the birthers. It is no wonder they don’t want to tarnish their reputations by being associated with cranks and conspiracy theorists. Look at what WND did to Zatkovich! Frankly, I don’t blame the experts for keeping clear of the Cold Case Posse and the rest of them. Birtherism is has never been a serious inquiry.

Speaking of “ugly business,” Phoenix TV Station KPHO (CBS 5) has published an article titled: Cold Case Posse violated MCSO Code of Conduct. This was based on the admission by Mike Zullo that he had received money from the sale of the Posse results in the form of Corsi’s book (which based on Zullo’s 50% split didn’t sell very well). I don’t know whether the ethics claim is valid or not, because despite what birthers believe, Mike Zullo holds no official position with the County. Previously, a referral was filed with the IRS regarding the tax-exempt status of the Cold Case Posse over this same and other issues.

I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that the Internet domain was available. It’s not any more. I received a note in email that there is now a web site there with anti-birther articles. Check out the video by Foggy there.

Finally, I plan being on the second hour of the Reality Check radio program this evening to talk about birth codes in Hawaii. If you’ve read my articles up to this point, you won’t learn anything new from me, but you might from someone else. Jerry Collette will be featured in the first hour.

I’m way behind reading emails and comments on the blog, but I’m catching up.