Friday, November 28, 2008

Obama's "birth certificate" - the devil's in the details

The “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth” is a portion of the Hawaiian “birth certificate” program that family members may have used to register a young Barack Obama as a US Citizen, during the era Hawaii was transitioning from being a US territory to statehood.

For the purposes of this article, it should be noted that there are several different types of "birth certificates" that Hawaii uses to show proof of birth:

- Certification of Live Birth
- Certificate of Live Birth
- Certificate of Delayed Birth
- Certificate of Hawaiian Birth

Another very important point to note is that a “Certification of Live Birth” is an abbreviated version of the birth record on file with the Hawaiian Department of Health. The root document(s), could be: a) a true “Certificate of Live Birth”; b) a “Late Birth Certificate” with or without modifications; or c) a “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth.”

To be distinct and precise in terminology, there is no official document called a “birth certificate” in Hawaii. The term is loosely used to describe a certificated proof of birth. (In fact, if you take a look at your “birth certificate” that you may have tucked away in a safe place, it probably says, “Certificate of Live Birth” at the very top of the form.)

The “Certificate of Live Birth,” sometimes called the “long form,” or “vault copy” birth certificate shows details such as the hospital, doctor or midwife’s names, witness signatures, etc. This, by the way, is what John McCain released earlier in the year to the general public:

Since this summer, Obama has shown the “Certification of Live Birth” on his website.

The computer-generated “Certification of Live Birth” is used by the state of Hawaii IN LIEU OF the “Certificate of Live Birth,” or if originally filed, a “Delayed Certificate of Birth,” or even a “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth.” For verification purposes, however, the “Certification of Live Birth” does not indicate which birth record “root document(s)” that the Certification is based upon.

Hawaiian “birth certificate” history

Few official birth certificates existed at the turn of the century, and the few that were filed may have listed only the person’s first name. Hawaiian law established the “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth” program in 1911. The program permitted a person born in Hawaii who was one year or older, and whose birth had not been previously registered in Hawaii, to be registered by a family or guardian. Hawaii had just been annexed in 1898 and was a US territory, so documenting residents made sense. With families moving between the islands, or having children without the aid of a hospital or doctor, the “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth” allowed the new territory to capture names for census, voting, property ownership and of course, taxation.

The “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth” application was a very basic form which was little more than a personal affidavit and might have little if any verifiable info of the birth. For example, Sun Yat-sen, Chinese revolutionary and political leader often referred to as the “Father of Modern China,” was able to file a “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth” application and immigrate to the US in 1904 using the form.

Once processed, Sun Yat-sen’s application became a true "Certificate of Hawaiian Birth":

As the decades passed, the “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth” Application and Certification process became more formalized. For example, this is the 1946 “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth” application from Masayoshi Mitose, credited for having brought Kenpo martial arts to the US in the 1930s:

As is evident on Mitose’s supplemental data seems to indicate, the more detailed the support documentation, the greater likelihood the certificate would be accepted by the Secretary of Hawaii, and later, the Department of Health.

When Hawaii became a state in 1959, there were many people residing there who may not have had a filed birth certificate, but did possess a “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth.” Any person to whom a “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth” had been issued could request to amendment, including a legal change of name, via a “Late Birth Certificate.”

By applying for a “Late Birth Certificate” issued in lieu of a “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth,” changes could be made to the official records of that person that were filed using the previously-submitted form. The “Late Birth Certificate” would be treated more like the more-legitimate “Certificate of Live Birth,” even though several years may have passed, memories faded and accounts changed regarding the events surrounding the birth.

To make changes to the “birth certificate” on file, an applicant would be required to submit documentary evidence of the birth facts, often in the form of a questionnaire and affidavits, to support the registration of the “Late Certificate of Birth.” On a small island, in a time devoid of computers and databases, verification was a little harder to come by than today. Also almost like a small town, people knew each other and were probably not highly suspicious of forgery or incomplete birth records.

Once approved, the “Late Birth Certificate” would be registered in the official birth records in place of the “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth.” Under existing policy, the “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth” and supplementary data would then be surrendered to the Department of Health, assumedly to be archived.

The “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth” Program was terminated in 1972 when, among other reasons, the law required the U.S. Social Security Administration to issue Social Security numbers and to obtain more stringent evidence of age and citizenship or alien status and identity. It is not publically known how many citizens possess the “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth,” or how many people used Hawaiian law to modify their birth records to reflect a “Certificate of Delayed Birth” on file in place of the previous form.

American citizenship has always been seen as being highly sought after for political freedom and economic opportunity. Laws similar the “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth” existed for Guam and other American territories.

By today’s standards, compared to the “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth” era of non-computerized record keeping of 1972 and before, it would seem relatively difficult to “slip in” using Hawaiian law to prove US Citizenship, especially if the child had not be born on Hawaii.

However, even today’s Hawaiian state law provides for the issuance of “birth certificates” if the child is born out of state, and potentially out of the US, as long as the legal parents can show Hawaii as their legal residence:

[§338-17.8] Certificates for children born out of State.
(a) Upon application of an adult or the legal parents of a minor child, the director of health shall issue a birth certificate for such adult or minor, provided that proof has been submitted to the director of health that the legal parents of such individual while living without the Territory or State of Hawaii had declared the Territory or State of Hawaii as their legal residence for at least one year immediately preceding the birth or adoption of such child. (emphasis added)

How this affects Barack Obama

Barack Obama, born in 1961, has shown the world his “short form birth certificate,” or “Certification of Live Birth”:

For comparison, here’s an example of the more-detailed “vault copy” of a “Certificate of Live Birth”:

A very important point to note is that a “Certification of Live Birth” is an abbreviated version of the birth record on file with the Hawaiian Department of Health. The root document(s), could be: a) a true “Certificate of Live Birth”; b) a “Late Birth Certificate” with or without modifications; or c) a “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth.”

A “Certification of Live Birth” may reflect data that had been changed over time, and does not provide corroborated testimony such as dates, locations, change in paternal identification, and witnesses. Any record that amendments had been submitted and information changed is not shown on the “Certification of Live Birth,” which is laser printed on special green stock paper, and lacks detailed information that would be expected from a true “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth,” or “Certificate of Delayed Birth.”

Recent Statements Regarding Obama's "Birth Certificate"

Knowing the intricacies of the Hawaiian “birth certificate” adds mystery instead of resolution with Obama birth record critics, especially when applied to statements provided by Hawaiian officials before the Presidential election.

On Oct. 31, after being inundated by requests for more details about Obama’s birth records, Department of Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said she and registrar of vital statistics, Alvin Onaka, had personally verified that the Health Department possesses Obama's original birth certificate.

"Therefore, I as Director of Health for the State of Hawai‘i, along with the Registrar of Vital Statistics who has statutory authority to oversee and maintain these type of vital records, have personally seen and verified that the Hawai‘i State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures," Fukino said.

The cryptic and carefully-worded statement offered no true details of the “birth certificate,” and leads to more questions than answers among critics. In July, when Barack Obama’s Certification of Live Birth” was first distributed publically on the internet, Hawaiian Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo simply asserted to the St. Petersburg Times, “it’s a valid Hawaii state birth certificate.”

Although officials are on record that there is an original “birth certificate” held by the state, and that it is correctly filed according to Hawaii state directives. However, the specifics of the type of “birth certificate” records on file, with modifications, as well as the details and accounts of witnesses, is still unknown at this time.

Credibility of the " Certification of Live Birth"

The computer-generated “Certification of Live Birth” was first used in November 2001 to allow the State of Hawaii to pull up birth records quicker for people requesting a “birth certificate” in person. At the very bottom of the form are the words, “This copy serves as prima facia evidence of the fact of birth in any court proceeding.” [HRS 338-13(b), 338-19]."

However, despite this written notice on the form, some Hawaii state agencies do not accept the “Certification of Live Birth” as irrefutable verification of Hawaiian birth. There have been numerous cases when the Hawaii Family Court System required more detailed data for paternity suits. Additionally, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands provides the following guidelines to Hawaiian natives applying for Hawaiian Home Lands homestead:

The primary documents used to show you are of age and a qualified native Hawaiian are:
- A certified copy of Certificate of Birth;
- A certified copy of Certificate of Hawaiian Birth, including testimonies; or
- A certified copy of Certificate of Delayed Birth.

“In order to process your application, DHHL utilizes information that is found only on the original Certificate, which is either black or green. This is a more complete record of your birth than the Certification of Live Birth (a computer-generated printout). Submitting the original Certificate will save you time and money since the computer-generated Certification requires additional verification by DHHL.”
(emphasis added)

Additionally, the “Certification of Live Birth” is not recognized by many Federal agencies. DoD 5220.22-M, the "National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual," provides baseline standards for the protection of classified information released or disclosed from the military, Department of Energy, and other agencies, to industry. Section 2-208states that acceptable certificates must show that the birth record was filed shortly after birth. If a “Delayed Birth Certificate” is on file, it must be supported by secondary evidence of birth, such as baptismal or circumcision certificates, hospital birth records, or affidavits of persons having personal knowledge about the facts of birth.

Even to work at the Navy Ship Yard in Pearl Harbor, the August 2008 version of the, “Unified Facilities Guide Specifications,” section allows for a total of 18 different means to verify US citizenship, ranging from a military ID card to even a “Hawaii certificate of foreign birth.” The “Certification of Live Birth” is not on the list of approved documents acceptable for proof of Citizenship.

Persisting questions and Constitutional Problems

Although some vetting took place in summer 2008 after Barrack Obama’s “Certification of Live Birth,” most media outlets and online bloggers failed to explore the unique aspects and varieties of Hawaiian “birth certificates.” Unfortunately, the birth certificate issue may cause a Constitutional crisis if Obama is determined to be other than a “Natural Born Citizen,” as Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5 of the US Constitution requires.

One potential problem might involve a name change to “Barry Soetoro” when attending elementary school in Indonesia, which may have occurred if there was an amendment in Obama’s birth record. Some accounts of Obama’s youth indicate his name may have been changed to. A name change would also need to be legally registered in court.

Verbal accounts by some of Obama’s family reportedly indicate Obama’s birthplace was either Kapiolani or Queens Hospital in Hawaii on Aug. 8, 1961. However, no birthing records reportedly can be found in either of the two hospitals, and no records seem to exist that list Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, as a patient at either hospital. Also, no medical staff has come forward to offer affidavits of Obama’s birth. A birth announcement appeared in the Aug. 13, 1963 edition of the Honolulu Advertiser, however, it’s not definitive if the announcement was placed by the Department of Vital Statistics or a family member. If the latter is true, it’s plausible that Obama and mother may not have been on the island at the time of birth.

Depending on the events and timing, the “birth certificate” issue could impact the outcome of the Presidential election if Obama’s records are incomplete and do not match the name on Certified ballots. State Secretary of State laws differ on this subject, but could have an effect on Electoral Collage delegates and how they might be allowed to vote on Dec. 15.

At this time, at least 17 lawsuits are pending in various state and federal courts. Additionally, it’s been rumored online that some Electoral College delegates may make requests to see details of Obama’s birth records. Some court cases are destined to be dismissed, while others may lead to a final show-down between Obama and his birth certificate critics.

According to a lawsuit by Philip Berg that is before the Supreme Court on appeal, Berg states that Obama’s mother was in Kenya during her pregnancy, and was prevented from flying back to Hawaii because of flight restrictions to prevent births in flight. Berg alleges Obama’s paternal grandmother, half-brother, and half-sister have stated that Obama was born in Kenya. Shortly after giving birth, Obama’s mother flew to Hawaii to register the birth. Justice Souter dismissed the case on Nov. 3. However, Supreme Court rules state that “any brief in opposition shall be filed within 30 days after the case is placed on the docket.” All parties, the Democratic National Committee, the Federal Elections Committee, Obama, and others are to respond to the court case dismissed by the Third Circuit by December 1.

Additional credibility issues arise depending on the details of Obama’s “vault copy” birth certificate and how it would hold up to a Constitutional challenge of Natural Born Citizenship. As former Ambassador and 2008 Presidential candidate Alan Keyes outlines in his pending lawsuit with the California Secretary of State: “a Certificate of Hawaiian Birth was the result of the uncorroborated testimony of one witness and was not generated by a hospital. Such a Certificate could be obtained up to one year from the date of the child’s birth. For that reason, its value as prima facie evidence is limited and could be overcome if any of the allegations of substantial evidence of birth outside Hawaii can be obtained.”

In a lesser-known case with potentially earth shattering consequences, the US Supreme Court is set to have a closed-door Conference to evaluate if they wish to further explore the Constitutional-status of Barack Obama, John McCain and Roger Calero as Natural Born Citizens. In contrast to Keyes case and more than a dozen cases pending on the Presidential election, Leo C. Donofrio uniquely alleges Obama’s dual citizenship status at birth with the US and Kenya is prohibited by the Framers of the Constitution because of their concern of “divided loyalties” and “foreign influence.” The case of Donofrio vs. the New Jersey Secretary of State, has the potential to put the final election results on hold, leading up to Electoral College voting on Dec. 15, and Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.

Immediately before Thanksgiving Day, another appeal was added to the US Supreme Court which directly challenges the “Certification of Live Birth” that appears on Obama's website. In the case, Cort Wrotnowski alleges Connecticut Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz should not have placed Obama’s name on the ballot without verifying the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate. “It’s a fundamental point, which is this document has not been produced,” Wrotnowski said. “I’m not the first, not the last, just among a growing number of people across the country who’ve become distressed about the lack of disclosure.”


Given many the many rumors swirling about Barack Obama’s youth, his and his mother’s travels between Africa, Indonesia, Hawaii and Washington State, his father’s Kenyan citizenship, family eye-witness accounts that Barack was born in Kenya, and other inconsistencies, speculation on the known facts is rampant. Critics estimate Obama and his campaign has spent nearly $1 million dodging the issue of the details behind his “birth certificate.”

Critics should be asking the correct questions with their requests to see the "birth certificate." As this article has shown, the root document(s) may be something other than a true “Certificate of Live Birth.”

To have a FULL accounting, the "birth certificate" is NOT enough. The ENTIRE "birth record" on file with the Secretary of Health Vital Statistics Office, as well as any archived files with the former "Secretary of Hawaii" (as was the procedure under the Organic Act of 1900), should be examined to determine if a “Late Birth Certificate” with modifications, or a “Certificate of Hawaiian Birth” is present or has been archived away from the "vault copy." It's entirely possible there are older "versions" and different types of birth certifications stored in Archive, at different locations "below" the top, most current certificate being used today.

Even in the event of an adoption, which is a possibility, the entire records can still be unsealed with a court order so that officials who have the Constitutional requirement to verify a candidate's qualifications may review the document. This is not to conduct a "witch hunt" -- but should be done in the venue of "due diligence," to put this issue to rest.

To silence the questions of his birth records and citizenship, as well as lessen his legal jeopardy in regard to his eligibility to hold the office of President, perhaps Obama’s best course of action would seem that he reveals the details of his birth record. In doing so, he would be able to put to rest doubts that have hounded him for years. Leaving the questions unanswered may well taint the legitimacy of his Presidency for years to come.