“Deleted or Cropped Content” in Obama Birth Certificate
To the dismay of many in the political arena, the “birther” controversy has been given new, vigorous life by the release of a document purported to be President Barack Obama’s “long-form” birth certificate.
A quick review of the “Certificate of Live Birth” using Adobe Acrobat Professional or Adobe Illustrator reveals that the image of the certificate is a composite created using computer software. An image of the document as provided is shown below.
In Acrobat Professional 9.0, opening the document and selecting Document > Examine Document… produces an interesting result. The program reports that there is “deleted or cropped content” in the PDF. Removing this “deleted or cropped content” results in the image below. (The same result can be found by right-clicking the document and selecting “Release Clipping Mask” in Illustrator.)
It is unclear in exactly what ways this document was compromised, but it does not appear to be a scan of a real-life document. If it were, the file would not have mixed forms of content. It would be a flat image like a photograph, and neither Acrobat nor Illustrator would detect any evidence of composition—just a series of pixels on a single layer.
Here’s a tip for next time: print out and rescan the document after it’s been hacked together, and the seams should become less obvious.
UPDATE (4/28, 3:09 PM): In Acrobat, opening the document and selecting Advanced > Document Processing > Export All Images… produces the images below, which are a bit easier to examine.
Note that the “APRIL 25 2011” date stamp in the lower-left of the PDF does not get exported as a black-and-white image, as is the case with the other text that appears “whited out” in the green image.
Looking at these images, it seems a reasonable hypothesis that the document is in fact a genuine birth certificate, but that whoever scanned it did so in an unusual way that included composing the PDF from multiple images. However, it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether it is genuine. The long-awaited release of this “long form” does not resolve anything definitively.
Unfortunately, the question of the specifics of Obama’s birth seems to only lead to more questions. It would behoove the Hawai’i Department of Health to provide more compelling evidence than a PDF that has the appearance of not being a pure scan of a single document. While performing cosmetic touches like the green background and multi-image composition may have some purpose, doing so raises doubts about the authenticity of the information.