Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Hawaiian Health Department

Part of the difficulty in sorting through this issue is that there are a lot of rumors and misinformation on the internet. For example, there was a planted phantom decision about a nonexistent Virginia lawsuit from a "Wild Bill" that surfaced on November 3, 2008. No one has ever been able to verify that this VA lawsuit ever existed.

Similarly, many have claimed that the Hawaiian Health Department has issued a formal statement asserting that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and the images of the certifications of live birth circulating on the internet are valid Hawaii birth certificates. However, on closer inspection, a lot of these purported official statements by the Hawaiian Health Department seem to evaporate.

For example, the October 31, 2008 offical statement by Director of the Department of Health for the State of Hawaii Dr. Chiyome Fukino is:

"There have been numerous requests for Sen. Barack Hussein Obama's official birth certificate. State law (Hawai'i Revised Statutes §338-18) prohibits the release of a certified birth certificate to persons who do not have a tangible interest in the vital record.

"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.

"No state official, including Governor Linda Lingle, has ever instructed that this vital record be handled in a manner different from any other vital record in the possession of the State of Hawai'i."

which was extrapolated by the Associated Press to produce a story entitled "State declares Obama birth certificate genuine". The Honolulu Advertiser similarly padded this simple official statement into the November 1, 2008 article "Obama's certificate of birth OK, state says", which includes an assertion by reporter Dan Nakaso that "Fukino issued her statement to try to stomp out persistent rumors that Obama was not born in Honolulu — and is therefore not a U.S. citizen and thus ineligible to run for president." Note that this sentence in the article is not attributed to Fukino; this is purely an unfounded claim injected into the piece by the reporter.

One of our team contacted Colin McMahon of the Chicago Tribune, about his December 6, 2008 article, "Barack Obama, Sarah Palin dogged by Internet birth rumors", and he responded by email that we had surely missed the "recent" interviews with Hawaiian officials affirming that Obama was born in Hawaii. When queried about these "recent" interviews, McMahon directed us to this same November 1, 2008 Honolulu Advertiser article. Not particularly recent, and obviously a fairly misleading packaging of the October 31, 2008 official statement by Fukino.

Of course, as most people should know by now, you can have a valid Hawaiian certificate of live birth, either short or long form, and still be born outside of Hawaii or even the US (per Hawaii law 338-17.8). After all, there is even a space for registering foreign births on the form, a box "7C" (see an example of a valid long form showing box 7c here or here). And the Hawaiian Health Department, as far as we have been able to determine, has never issued a statement about what is in box 7C of Obama's certificate of live birth. All that Fukino stated is that "Hawai'i State Department of Health has Sen. Obama's original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures." Which to be honest, is somewhat vague and is not really the information that is being sought.

As another example, we are frequently told that Director of Communications of the Hawaiian Department of Health Janice Okubo has verified that Barack Obama is a "natural born citizen". Recently we asked for a source for this, and were given a quote from a post by Chicago Tribune reporter James Janega on the Chicago Tribune's Washington Bureau political blog, "The Swamp", on November 3, 2008,:

Does this mean Obama was born in Hawaii?

"Yes," said Hawaii Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo, in both email and telephone interviews with the Tribune. "That's what Dr. Fukino is saying."

Read the complete blog post to see it in context.

This was supposedly sent to "The Swamp" by email and mentioned in phone conversations with Janice Okubo. It is interesting to me that when our group repeatedly contacted the Hawaiian Health Department, the Hawaiian Health Department representatives stated that they will not discuss whether Obama was born in Hawaii or not, as a matter of policy and law. Others have had similar responses. For example, David Serchuk wrote on on November 21, 2008 that:

"Unfortunately the way state laws are written we are not allowed to confirm vital information and vital records," said Janice Okubo, a spokeswoman for Hawaii's department of health. "I cannot confirm individual information because that is against the law."

She added, though, that Dr. Fukino does have authority over and maintains records for individuals born in Hawaii.

If Janega's blog post is accurate, then the Hawaiian Health Department should issue a formal statement on this issue. Perhaps some compromise could be found which reveals the information that is being sought, but still protects the privacy of the individuals involved. It is unfortunate that the Hawaii government and/or the Obama clique has not allowed this, particularly when Hawaiian government officials and Obama are being sued in court over this matter in more than one complaint. More openness would probably have prevented this current unpleasant situation.

If someone in the Hawaiian Health Department was willing to make this sort of assertion in print, or better yet, under oath, then this entire contretemps would probably not have ballooned to its present proportions. However, the incredible amount of foot-dragging, evasion, ambiguous statements and legal wrangling makes it less likely that most skeptics will be satisfied by anything except a careful examination of the evidence at this point.

The short form document Obama produced, the Hawaiian certification of live birth (as distinct from the Hawaiian certificate of live birth, or long form document) has much less information on it, and is lacking information about the hospital and attending physician, etc. This extra information can be used to corroborate the information on the document. The short form document is even judged to be inadequate for participating in Hawaiian government programs. Also, in some circumstances, the Hawaiian birth documents can be changed later.

As an aside, it is interesting that two different "original" Hawaiian certifications of live birth have been produced by the Obama campaign, at and I wonder why they produced two different documents? Both are "originals"? How can there be two originals? Why are they so different? Could it be that a more convincing version had to be produced after many deficiencies in the "fightthesmears" digital image were pointed out?

Robert Stevens