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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.

Is making a fake PDF image of a birth certificate a crime? Mike Zullo answers!

Here’s what Mike Zullo said:

Let me say something Carl. You know we have been focused on this issue and, you know, your listeners, everybody is so intently focused on the birth certificate. And I just really want to make it clear. The birth certificate as it’s, in the form that it is now, a PDF file is absolutely of no evidentiary value. It’s useless. And it doesn’t really matter to an extent other than from a conspiratorial standpoint in the commission of felonies. It doesn’t matter about all these anomalies because this thing has no evidentiary value. It is nothing. It is absolutely nothing, and the American people were shown absolutely nothing.

So, no, creating a fake PDF of a birth certificate in and of itself is not a crime.

Mike Zullo also said:

We are here looking at a fraudulent document1. This document should never have been perpetrated, should never have been proffered in the manner it does. As a matter of fact, to merely create this document is a federal offense.

So yes, creating a fake birth certificate PDF is very definitely a federal crime.

I hope that clears it up.

1Some birther apologists may argue that the “document” referred in the second quote is not the PDF (an abbreviation for “portable document format”), but that cannot be for two reasons. First Zullo and the rest of the birthers claim that there was no paper Obama birth certificate to start with, and that the PDF was assembled electronically from bits and pieces. Second, the only thing the President posted for the general public, and the only thing Zullo could possibly be “looking at,” is the PDF.

Cultivate bemusement

Obama laughs over birth certificate controversy

When President Obama released his birth certificate to the world on April 27, 2011 (a date that will live in history), he said that he had watched the birther story “with bemusement.” Obama himself has minions to keep tabs on the birthers: political aides to see if there’s anything of substance to respond to, and the Secret Service to keep tabs on any birthers who show symptoms of rabies. He doesn’t think about birthers much any more, according to a speech he made to the National Action Network convention in New York City yesterday. Speaking about Voter ID laws, the President quipped [11:12 in the video]:

imageAnd just to be clear, I know where my birth certificate is, but a lot of people don’t. [crowd laughs] A lot of people don’t. [Obama chuckles] I think it’s still up on a web site somewhere. [Obama chuckles and shakes his head] You remember that? That was crazy. [crowd laughs] That was some crazy stuff. [crowd and Obama laughs] I haven’t thought about that in a while. [Obama shakes his head and laughs]

Business Insider has an article: “Obama Laughs About ‘Crazy’ Birth Certificate Questions.” [I had a problem with Firefox locking up on that page, and had to use the Chrome browser.] A lively discussion appears there with a number of below average birthers participating. The discussion reveals a subculture of birthers who are even more clueless than the ones we deal with most frequently, saying things like:

  • Harrison Bounel is Michelle Obama’s cousin.
  • The Acton and Dystel bio appeared on the inside flap of Obama’s book.
  • No legitimate PDF document has layers.

The better-informed (relatively speaking) birthers at Birther Report are trying to read hidden significance into the remarks through the analysis of Obama’s microexpressions. One said:

I think Mike would agree, at 21:09 he twitches the right side of his mouth and face like I’ve never seen him do before.

Some contextually challenged folks think that Obama is acknowledging in the video that a lot of people don’t know where the President’s birth certificate, but he’s saying that a lot of people don’t know where their birth certificate is. See “Obama Admits People Don’t Know Where His Birth Certificate Is” at The Daily Dose of Conservatism web site. A commenter there thinks the video has been scrubbed :roll:

Other birthers are whining because Obama insulted them. See “Here Is Obama’s Latest Insult To Birth Certificate Skeptics” at Western Journalism.

Blogger shows Obama birth certificate artifacts caused by Xerox machine: no joy in Birtherville

I know that Internet blogger and radio host Reality Check has been busy with real life, and it’s great to see that he has been able to carve out enough time to get a few articles posted covering his testing of a sample birth certificate on a Xerox WorkCentre.

The articles so far are:

I hope my readers will take the time to look at these detailed articles, but I noticed one thing so amazing in the most recent article that I just had to highlight it here.

RC scanned a facsimile birth certificate using a Xerox WorkCentre 7535 to demonstrate how the machine’s MRC compression generates artifacts such as those seen in the President’s long-form birth certificate. The facsimile consisted of the Associated Press scan of a photocopy of the birth certificate, printed on real security paper. The White House PDF was not used to make the sample.

One of the curious artifacts in the White House PDF version of the birth certificate is the way the certificate number is divided into different layers. Here’s the certificate number as it appears in the White House PDF:


Examination of the layers in the White House PDF file reveals that the number is split into two parts, and stored in two separate layers of the file. Doesn’t that almost make you think that there is something fishy, that the certificate number was manually assembled from parts? Birthers think that it proves the whole document is a forgery, but it turns out that when a paper birth certificate is scanned with a Xerox WorkCentre 7535, we see the very same thing! Below are the certificate numbers as they appear in separate PDF layers, the White House PDF on the left and Reality Check’s scan to PDF from a Xerox machine on the right:

WHv7535 1

WHv7535 2

Isn’t that remarkable? What are the chances that a forger would divide the number in exactly the same way and put the parts in exactly the same layers that an office machine automatically does? Pretty darned small, I think.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Birtherville—mighty Zullo has struck out.

— With apology to Ernest Lawrence Thayer

Crude forgery

It seems that every time I think about it, I realize yet another reason why birther beliefs that Obama’s published long form birth certificate is a computer-generated forgery are ludicrous. This one just came to mind.

Fact 1: Anti-birthers have been able to scan a facsimile of Obama’s birth certificate and to create a PDF file with a simple work flow that has a remarkable resemblance to the White House PDF file. Not only does it look like it, numerous obscure details buried in the binary code match up: Scaling, alignment, separation, color spaces and even comments all match.

Fact 2: Birthers claim that Obama’s PDF file is a crude forgery, created by Adobe Photoshop. Only, birthers have never produced a PDF document even remotely matching the Obama PDF with Photoshop. They can make one that looks similar (after all, they need only make a copy of Obama’s or assemble one from its parts), but they have never come close to replicating the alignment, replicate the scaling, the layer separation, color spaces or comments in any software process. If the forger of Obama’s certificate is inept, how more inept are the birthers who can’t make one like it?

Obvious conclusion: The birthers lose. The certificate’s legit.

ame o ospit or nstitution not in ospit

Does that make sense to you?

Let’s say you wanted to create a fake birth certificate for Barack Obama. Would you put “ame o ospit or nstitution not in ospit” on one layer of the form and then create another layer with “N f h al i (If h al” and then try to line them up so that when printed they look perfect? Or would you make some text that said: “Name of hospital or institution (If not in hospital”? Following are the two layers from Obama’s long form showing this text on the layers:



If you believe the birther version of Obama long form forgery, you have to swallow exactly that Bizarro decomposition of the text by some hapless or clueless human forger, who despite his ineptitude creates a document that prints gorgeously and fooled several credentialed document examiners. I have years of experience with electronic conversion of documents and scanning text. That gobbledygook is exactly what I have seen over and over when computers try to deal with small text or bad copies of text. If you’ve ever played with OCR on difficult documents, you’ve probably seen the same thing.

Birthers don’t understand that the real world is messy. For them the world is highly ordered and messy things are the manifestations of the conspiracy behind it1. The inability to spot nonsense, such as the title to this article, is what makes a conspiracy theorist, and why their view of the world is so different from others.

Read more:

1I am reminded here of the movie, The Matrix, where where the world of perception is really a massive computer program simulating the world and things that aren’t quite right are bugs in the program. In conspiracy thinking, things that aren’t quite right are mistakes made by conspirators who are running the world.