“IT WAS INCREDIBLY OBVIOUS”
by Sharon Rondeau
(May 9, 2011) — The Post & Email was able to reach Mr. James Colby, who recently performed an analysis aired on a Colorado television station of the image released on April 27, 2011 by the White House purported to be a certified copy of Obama’s long-form birth certificate from Hawaii. Mr. Colby stated during that interview that the image contained as many as 50 layers.
MRS. RONDEAU: How did you determine that there were as many as 50 layers in this image?
MR. COLBY: It started when you open the birth certificate in your browser, in Adobe Acrobat. It was a friend of mine who noticed that the text on the birth certificate would flash to white in and out. The reason it was doing that was that there were different layers in the document that caused the layers to flash as it rebuilt the preview layer by layer. So those layers would flash over the top and rebuild that image in that way. From there, you can open it in Adobe Illustrator and see those layers first-hand.
MRS. RONDEAU: If the image had come from a paper document and then been scanned in and put on a computer screen, what would have happened when you opened it?
MR. COLBY: Almost all scanned images would be a single layer, so zooming in and out, there would have been nothing noticeable. Additionally, if you zoom in using Acrobat with your browser on a lot of the text, you’ll notice that it appears jagged and a single color. That’s not original. A pen doesn’t write in a single color; as you write lighter, the color is lighter; as you press harder, it’s darker than everything else. So writing in pen is not a single solid color, and when it scanned, anti-aliased, which means that the square pixels on the edges fade to make it appear smooth. Most of the text in the document including a large portion of the signatures is just a single blotch of color. The likely explanation is that someone just drew them in using a tool similar to “pencil” in Adobe Photoshop.
MRS. RONDEAU: Do you think that this came from any kind of a paper document originally?
MR. COLBY: There’s definitely a component of it that came from a paper document originally and was then edited after the fact. I can’t tell you how much of it was taken from a paper document unless the entire thing was connected. Another aspect to this is that in Illustrator, you can examine what’s called the “Clipboard.” Let’s say if you’re editing a paper document and you add another document and you are cutting fragments of other documents to paste over them to produce a final copy. The Clipboard on a computer is like all those cutouts, if you will, a kind of storage place. The clipboard for this document is still intact in its original form. It reflects the objects that have been “cut” from somewhere else and “pasted” into this document. By the way, all the things in the clipboard are rotated at 90 degrees without any explanation. Basically, there’s no computer-based explanation for that.
There are things in the clipboard that are notable; for instance, the “type of occupation outside home during pregnancy;” the “Non” in “none.” That’s in the clipboard…both the dates, “20” and “22,” are on the clipboard. The signature of the state registrar and the April 25th date are both foreign objects.
There are explanations that people have proposed. Some have proposed OCR, which is Optical Character Recognition, and that’s when scanners are giving computers the ability to read text. But that doesn’t apply here because OCR converts things into text, not images of text. All of the information in this document is stored as an image.
MRS. RONDEAU: How long have you been involved in work with documents?
MR. COLBY: I’ve been doing graphic arts since 2004 using Version 5 of Adobe Creative Suite, but I’m also a programmer. I’m a LAMP developer with a specialty in dynamic graphics. I’ve developed quite a few notable online graphics programs myself, from scratch, including a GD image editor, a 3D dynamic graphing generator, a system to develop the entire graphic profile of a site dynamically. I’m a little bit more than a graphic artist; I’m an internet engineer.
MRS. RONDEAU: What is your work background?
MR. COLBY: I incorporated my first IT company in 2004 and have been self employed since.I’ve been self-employed since 2004. I started our current business back in 2007, and I got started in the technology field early through an internship when I was about 15 or 16. I have not stopped working since.
MRS. RONDEAU: Would you say that analyzing this particular image was difficult? Did you have to look closely to find the 50 layers?
MR. COLBY: It was incredibly obvious.
The Post & Email then asked Mr. Colby if he was familiar with the “Blaine document” which had appeared on the internet as early as October 2009 but resurfaced last week following the release from the White House. We mentioned that to the untrained eye, the formatting of the two images appeared similar. Mr. Colby responded that he had not seen the Blaine image, so we sent it to him. We asked him to comment on whether or not he believed that the White House long-form image was assembled from the Blaine image, as some have suggested. Mr. Colby responded:
“I can’t find a high enough resolution sample to make any actual image based determinations. I will say the parent and attendant signatures have some appearance of being signed from the same hand, with attempt to create variation. Only one background mark seems to coincide between the two documents, while the rest are independent between – so the certificate released by the White House is not based on the “Blaine” document. Information like name, address, etc. obviously correlate but are publicly available so there is no significance.”
Mr. Colby’s final comments to us were, “One thing about documents is that it is possible to make flawless forgeries, especially with the resources of the Executive office. That’s what brings this into question; there’s no question that they have the ability to make a flawless forgery if they desire. So the question is, ‘Why was this released?'”
The Post & Email then asked him, “If you had a flawless forgery on the screen in front of you, could you detect that it was forged?” and he said, “No. If the proper resources were put into it, it would be impossible to detect it without having access to external information like original records from the issuer of the given document.”
Mr. Colby left some instructions whereby readers can discover for themselves the information he has presented about the White House image release: