Obama Birth Certificate: Should ‘Experts’ Be Trusted?

We are all led to believe so-called “experts” have integrity, no biases, and can be trusted. As a graphic designer with 35 years experience, I fully admit to my biases, however if my professional opinion had potential international political ramifications, I would do my best to reach an honest conclusion.

I just read a story regarding the Obama birth certificate controversy and was intrigued by the following lines….

The doubters have latched onto the idea that Adobe Illustrator — the premier program for computer graphic artists — “reveals” evidence of document manipulation in the Obama birth certificate. They note Illustrator reveals nine separate layers of the document, and claim it’s “proof” the file has been altered.

But that’s not so, says Jean-Claude Tremblay, a leading software trainer and Adobe-certified expert, who has years of experience working with and teaching Adobe Illustrator.

Funny how small a world it truly is.

On Thursday morning, April 28th, I did a search to find an Adobe Illustrator “expert” to ask one simple question, was the birth certificate authentic?

Most didn’t return my messages, but one I did manage to get through to on the phone was… Jean-Claude Tremblay. He was on his way out the door so he asked me to send him my question(s) on his website’s online form and he’s get back to me.

Hello again, Mr. Tremblay, Here is a link to President Obama’s birth certificate’s pdf: http://www.blackandblondemedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/birth-certificate-long-form.pdf Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response. Bob Parks

In a follow-up email, I also requested he do a phone interview with me explaining his findings either way.

Mr. Tremblay responded that evening.

Hi Bob…

I have taken a quick look at the PDF.

It’s hard to tell which application this PDF was generated from beside the MacOS Preview application using the build in PDF generator.

Opening it in Illustrator we see that this is not a one piece scanned image. Why some portions are in separated clipping? I can tell exactly. I have seen many application doing such elements. It’s all depend of the application use to generate the certificate.

Hope this can help you.

I will be unavailable for the next few days.


One paragraph piqued my interest where Tremblay said, “Opening it in Illustrator we see that this is not a one piece scanned image. Why some portions are in separated clipping? I can tell exactly. I have seen many application doing such elements. It’s all depend of the application use to generate the certificate.”

Mr. Tremblay resides in a French-speaking area of Canada so there may be a translation issue, but the fact he had questions and said the pdf I sent him “is not a one piece scanned image” raised a red flag. One would think the authentic birth certificate would be a “one piece scanned image”. Why would it need to be in layers and what application could have been used to create these elements?

On Friday, Mr. Tremblay responded to my last email.

Hi Bob…

I won’t do any recording. Sorry…

Here my take on this after a few more testing.

The fact that their is pieces of clipping parts when opened in Illustrator come from teh scanning software using some kind of OCR technologies. I can easily introduce such results on any scanned document. Not exactly the same, it all depend on the software OCR technology involved.

So the fact that we see “layers” is not a proof this is a fake document.

Between you and me, I would be more afraid of a fake if it was a single bitmap images. Then it would be mainly impossible to now if someone added something before or after scanning it.

You can read more about


Mr. Tremblay is more of an expert on Illustrator than I am, so I have to take his word, but there are some things I do know as a Photoshop expert with two working eyes.

While there is a curl on the original document, the green safety paper behind it doesn’t curl with it. It’s clear the green background was added. It could be as innocent as to add some cosmetic value to a dank black-and-white form, but the fact remains this document is NOT an original.

After that conversation with Mr. Tremblay,  he was contacted by Fox News and it didn’t go the way he’d have hoped.

Last Friday, I had a phone conversation with someone at FoxNews regarding the validity of Obama’s Birth Certificate PDF. A blog post was then published by them on Friday night. You can read it here.

My first idea was to post this on FoxNews.com, but I have not heard from them despite my repeated requests. So I’m posting here.

I want to clarify a few things written in that blog post after my brief conversation with Ms. Winter. The blog post on FoxNews has generated so many comments good and bad. I also feel that Ms. Winter has attributed a conclusion to me in the title that I did not mention during my interview. Some of my statements, mainly regarding the use of OCR software were also not 100% accurate. I only spent a short time looking at the PDF the day before. I feel obligated to make some clarifications.

First, I never thought that what I saw in the Birth Certificate PDF was a proof of its authenticity. For me, what I have seen does not prove that it is legit, nor that it is a fake, nor that there has been any tampering whatsoever. The title of the blog does not represent my conclusion. It would be unprofessional and simplistic within my area of competence to come to a conclusion one way or the other.

To recapitulate: Thursday, somebody emailed me and asked if I could look at the Birth Certificate (PDF) in question.

I opened the document with Acrobat Pro and also later using Adobe Illustrator. At first I found it strange to see a number of layers in the file, but without necessarily finding a deliberate act of manipulation. It is true that usually, when you scan a document you get a single image. So I told myself, maybe some OCR manipulation or some other technology was used to separate the text from the background of the image during the scanning process, as I have seen in the past. It is true that the OCR technology can be used to detect and analyze the text present in the image, to help in extracting text to enable searchabillity. Though I am not an expert on OCR, I know there are various technologies used to make a scanned document searchable, and sometimes it changes the text document by extracting it from the background. I closed the file and that was the end of it for me.

Now if you analyze the various resolutions of the images in the Obama’s Birth Certificate PDF in either Acrobat or Illustrator you will discover that they are mostly different; this is usually the result of such optimization of scanned document.

So, this is where Mr. Tremblay and I part ways.

If this were indeed an authentic document, all of the layers would be of an identical resolution. A PROFESSIONAL creating a forgery would make sure all of the elements on the various layers were of the same quality. An amateur might have assembled a document from quickly found or provided sources, pasted them together, and saved it as a .pdf instead of a flat .jpeg which gives anyone with Photoshop an unlocked front door to the layers and an opportunity for critical analysis.

I also want to mention that despite what some people said about me, saying that I’ve worked for Obama during his 2008 campaign is totally false. Being a Canadian, I might also add that I have absolutely no interest in the facts of this case leaning one way or another. I have no connection with Obama nor do I have received any money from FoxNews or anyone else.
Jean-Claude Tremblay, 5/2/11

To be honest, I wouldn’t want to be in Mr. Tremblay’s position. Think about what happened to the women who spoke out against the Clintons; people who were minding their own business one day and had their names torn to pieces the next by the power of the White House. Imagine what would happen to that “expert” who comes out and details how and why President Obama’s birth certificate could be a phony.

That person’s life would never be the same and I’m talking possible loss of job (income), reputation, and possibly down the road, family. And seeing how most artists are in the liberal community, finding one who’ll be objective will be tough if not impossible.

What I do find most frustrating about this whole episode are the media punditry who jumped into the reporting of this disclosure as a done deal, they know the birth certificate is real, etc.

For Rachel Maddow, Charles Krauthammer, Shepard Smith, Tamron Hall, Ed Schultz, George Stephanopoulos, and all the others who asserted that the issue is closed, I have one question: What version of Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop do they have on their computers?

16 Responses

  1. The B&R Wednesday Skim | Black & Right

    […] mentality once and for all New Obama Birth Certificate Forgery Proof in the Layers 2011 Flashback: Should ‘Experts’ Be Trusted? We’ve been over this but I guess I don’t have a big enough megaphone Ariz. immigration […]

  2. Joke

    “While there is a curl on the original document, the green safety paper behind it doesn’t curl with it. It’s clear the green background was added. It could be as innocent as to add some cosmetic value to a dank black-and-white form, but the fact remains this document was altered.”

    I don’t think the “document was altered”. I’m pretty sure that when the State Registrar of Hawaii made the copy of the birth certificate, they printed it out onto green safety paper. That is, instead of printing onto blank white paper, they printed the copy of the birth certificate onto green, lined paper. Then they signed and stamped that paper down toward the bottom.

    That’s what the registrar provided to the White House, and that’s what they scanned.

    • Bob Parks

      Well, if the White House said so, I guess that’s all that need be said.

      Obama troll season already?

      • Joke

        Bob, my first effort was an attempt was to phrase it gently. Let me try again.

        “While there is a curl on the original document, the green safety paper behind it doesn’t curl with it. It’s clear the green background was added. It could be as innocent as to add some cosmetic value to a dank black-and-white form, but the fact remains this document was altered.”

        Uh, no crap that the “safety paper behind it doesn’t curl with it”. The State Registrar of Hawaii scanned the original birth cert, which was a small piece of paper. That piece of paper curled somewhat on the scanner. They then printed the scanned image onto a full-sized sheet of _green safety paper_. Why did they do that? Because it’s standard operating procedure — that way, the seal and signature they added to the resulting copy down in the bottom right (signed by Alvin T. Onaka on April 25, 2011) is more secure than it would be on blank white paper.

        You must able to see that this is obviously the much likelier explanation than “it’s clear the green background was added [by the White House, for absolutely no good reason]. It could be as innocent as to add some cosmetic value to a dank black-and-white form, but the fact remains this document was altered.”

        I mean seriously, how in the world does it make sense for the White House to alter the document? It’s obvious you failed to comprehend what you were looking at, you made a silly assertion, and now you’re grasping at innuendo and name-calling.

        [Note: If you’d had the grace and/or intelligence to take my gentle correction with an “Oh, I see what you’re saying”, I’d probably have said to myself “Here’s a reasonable person — have to follow his blog, might have interesting stuff in the future”. But now I’m sure that’s not the case.]

      • Bob Parks

        I didn’t know it was considered bad manners for me to have the nerve to point out (from experience) that people come here only to defend Obama. Despite your very valid rebuttal, I stand by my original assertion and add the following:

        Corsi: Hawaii Detective Charges: ‘Birth Certificate’ A Fraud

        HONOLULU, Hawaii – A private investigator claims employees of the state Department of Health forged three Hawaiian birth certificates for Barack Obama to “screw with birthers.” Takeyuki Irei told WND one document placed the birth at Kapiolani hospital, another at Queens Medical Center and a third in Kenya. The 57-year-old detective, who has been a P.I. since the 1980s, said he was stunned when he discovered that the purported copy of Obama’s original birth certificate released by the White House was more or less an exact image of one of the forgeries.

  3. PsychoDad

    OK, I too have looked at this under Illustrator, and I am no expert_ I admit it’s the first time I ever used Illustrator at all. It is odd how a huge bunch of the print lifts and separates. However, a lot of the breaks are in weird, almost random, places, like right in the middle of signatures. Looking at the big picture –literally, I suppose– I don’t see where -other- stuff would be that was ‘shopped over. In other words, whatever layers there seem to be don’t really make sense if it was a ‘shop – again, I’m no expert, but I will concede that whatever there is odd about this is an artifact of the scanning process. Now– as to whether that was -deliberate- specifically to keep the topic hot — I wouldn’t put that past him at all.

  4. Birdy

    My husband was taking a look at the PDF today, with fresh eyes. I sat with him, looking over it again. My husband was caught up by the weird spacing…most everything is centered. (That sure takes extra time to do, but it sure looks pretty). But I noticed something new, some of the typewritten letters don’t match up, like they were all Photoshopped into place. What caught my eye at first were the different Ks….not all of them match up. Some float, some legs don’t hit the arm in the same place.

    I’ve got church in a few so I can’t be more details, but it sure seems like a red flag.

  5. OldnyFirefighter

    That should be Obama is “NOT” elegible, in the second line – ten thumbs tonight!!

  6. OldnyFirefighter

    Actually I am hoping Obama stays behind this document being his official Birth Certificate. It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt he is eligible to be President. His Father was not a US Citizen. According to Bill 511 that Congress enacted to verify McCain’s Natural Born Status & Obama was involved with, says Both Parents have to be US Citizens for McCain to be eligible. McCains parents were both US Citizens, while Obama’s were not. His Father had British Citizenship & his Mother, US Citizenship. That leaves Obama with Dual Citizenship, which excludes him, as well as not being a Natural Born Citizen due to his not having both parents with US Citizenship. Either or both facts make him ineligible. There is one strange entry on the BC & that is his Father’s Race is listed as “African”, which is not a Race. No other State lists African as a Race. This BC is a smoking gun, but is there anyone in Congress with enough balls to pursue it or even mention it? I doubt it, as they would be labeled as Racist unless, it was Charlie Rangle. In that case, they would just say he has Dementia & his rantings are irrelevant.

  7. Mauser

    I’ve seen the suggestion that the microfilmed version of the page (with no green background) (Which the AP published) was printed out on green paper.

    Unfortunately, that doesn’t cover everything. Or explain why there are two versions of the same document floating around.

  8. bobkatowc51

    With all the talk about the document. I find it interesting that no one has brought up the fact that Obama Sr. Is a British Subject. Does that not make Obama Jr. ineligible to be a “Natural Born Citizen”!

  9. JP Kalishek

    we have a scanner/printer at work that will scan in a document as a pdf. I don’t have the illistrator use at work so I can’t test this but it sounds sound. I know, when one who knows how scans stuff in we can change MSDS files and Tech Data sheets when we do a chemical change in the scanned files. One would hope the Records folks would not set things like that because a file could then be changed…or questions about authenticity brought over possible changes (sounds familiar…hmm)
    The paper background is likely a tamper proof paper used to print out the document to prevent any changes, and I used to get some when used checks printed off my computer. One of my copies is like that, the other is older and looks more like a hand typed copy and is notarized.

    That said, II think it could be fake, or modified. I have seen one other scan of a supposed HI long form and it looked nothing like this one. one wonders if it was done this way intentionally to red herring something else

  10. KevinSGtr

    I too am a graphic designer with 35+ years experience, most of it with MacOS and the leading design software apps.

    I will not comment on the layers and clipping issue. All sorts of things can happen when a file is moved from one application to another.

    However, consider this:

    This document is presented to the public as a type of “evidence”. Why did the creator of this file take the trouble to replicate the safety paper and fill the entire background with this fill pattern? By doing this it highlights the curved spine area of the certificate. To my thinking, again considering this is supposed to be evidence, we should see the dimensional curved booklet PLACED ON THE SCANNER GLASS and the background space should be the LID OF THE SCANNER. That would be a pure, unaltered, unadulterated picture of the document. It would contain no ambiguity.

    Instead, the White House saw fit to dress up this document with, at the very least, an altered and contrived background. In other words, these brainiacs introduced doubt to the document’s presentation, raising as many questions as they hope it will answer. So, is this a stupid oversight? Is the graphic designer at fault? Did the designers supervisor dislike the nasty-looking scanner lid image and foolishly order it to be prettied up? Or do they like the whole birther controversy? After all, it allows them to keep the pot stirred and it isolates their enemies for easy condemnation.

  11. Tallyman

    “Things aren’t what they seem, skim milk masquerades as cream.” Gilbert and Sullivan
    Why did Obama lackeys post an obviously heavily edited file? Because they want to the controversy to continue.
    It is a diversion to an issue which resolves only by an opinion rather than fact. Obama as an honest well meaning president is an illusion perpetrated by his handlers. This is a classic stage trick of an illusionist.
    In the link: look at the Conjurer Picture and note how you don’t notice that you are misdirected from the thief stealing from you. The birth certificate misdirects the voting public from Obama’s thieves’ hands in their pockets.

  12. Richmedia

    There is no doubt that this was “saved as” or accessed through the print menu as a pdf on a Mac. The Document info window shows the creator as Mac OS X Quartz 10.X.X etc. If it were a single scanned document, the creator would have been whatever scanning software was used.

    Optical Character Recognition seems to be the most widely cited theory as to why there are layers and objects within the pdf. This is a capability that the native Mac pdf print engine does not have. OCR is used for two major reasons: so that the document prints text cleaner than if it simply an image file while retaining a smaller file size, and also so that the document becomes searchable. Once OCR has been run on a document you can copy and paste text from a pdf just as if it were a text document. Part of the process involves embedding subset fonts, and again in the document info window, there are no fonts present (which would be listed under the “Fonts” tab).

    OCR is not perfect technology either, in the scanning software that I’ve used it in, it is only about 97% correct, although it works pretty well for printed text. The OCR function in Adobe Acrobat (I don’t think this function is available in Reader) seems better to me, so that is what I generally use. Depending on what fonts are installed on the computer, you could end up with gobbledygook. (that’s the technical term!)

    For giggles I tested this theory out by printing the birth certificate, scanning it directly into a pdf file, running the OCR function in Acrobat and then opening the resulting file in Illustrator. Every single line of text in the document became an object, and subsets of the Times and Helvetica font families were embedded in the pdf. The file size also nearly doubled. Clearly that is not at all what happened here.

    The larger question is why Team Obama posted such an obviously heavily edited file to the public. Does he enjoy the distraction (watch my left hand while my right hand is busy) ?


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