By Frank Arduini
How an obscure southern preacher became a hero to “Birthers,” a laughing stock to “Obots,” and the single worst Baptist prognosticator of the future since William Miller.
The Dog Days of Xerox
From the first moments that amateur birther “experts” armed with Adobe Illustrator had begun to deconstruct the White House PDF and declare forgery, the response by more technically savvy observers on both sides of the political divide was to pronounce the claims nonsense. The “anomalies” being pointed at were (they asserted) the ordinary results of ordinary compression algorithms applied by ordinary computers when performing ordinary scans of ordinary paper documents. But they looked… weird. And that was all that most of the birther faithful needed to be convinced that something nefarious was afoot.
The Cold Case Posse had been riding that wave of technical ignorance from the moment it was chartered to investigate the BC. And when time came to respond to more technically competent criticism, the trump card they held closest to their vest was simple: the debunker’s arguments, no matter how compelling, were also essentially theoretical. No one had actually demonstrated that they could replicate the details of the PDF that birthers considered to be signs of fabrication. Their own “experts” had performed “more than 1200 tests” with different hardware and software, unable to come up with an innocent technical explanation, or so they claimed. It had finally even become an explicit challenge from Zullo to his naysayers:
(I)f you can show me how a one-button scan push can do this to a document, please come in; I’d love to sit here and have you show me. Nobody ever steps up to that plate.
By the end of July, it had become clear at the on-again off-again Native and Natural Born Citizenship Explored Blog that somebody was getting ready to step up to that plate. The blogger NBC had been involved in an open conversation with a commenter named Kevin Vicklund regarding the technical issues associated with the White House PDF. They had also stumbled upon a comment by a poster named JPotter at the Obama Conspiracy Theories Blog from almost a full year earlier that suggested the hardware that created the PDF might have been a Xerox WorkCentre applying Mixed Raster Compression (MRC) algorithms to a simple scan. JPotter had even pointed to a number of Xerox patents explaining the technology and how it worked. It was a brilliant observation that had for too long gone unnoticed. But no longer.
Soon, NBC and Vicklund were joined by RC of the Reality Check Radio Blog in a comprehensive analysis of the White House PDF. And rather than merely concentrating on explaining the handful of “anomalies” that captured the birther imagination, they plunged deeply into both the metadata and vestigial programming artifacts that would not simply replicate the White House PDF, but identify the PDF creation hardware/software combination to the exclusion of all others. By the time they were finished, they had met Zullo’s challenge almost completely.
I say “almost” completely because Zullo’s demand had always been a bit of a snipe hunt. He had demanded a “one-button scan push.” The Workflow discovered by NBC, Vicklund and RC actually required that button to be pushed twice.
What they had discovered was a stunningly simple four step workflow that explained every single one of the digital “anomalies” identified by birthers as signs of forgery. The original document had been “scanned to email” on a Xerox WorkCentre All-In-One Scanner/Copier/Printer using its default settings. When time came to post the PDF on line, the person responsible for posting noticed that the document had been scanned upside down. To make sure it would be right side up on the Whitehouse.gov web site, the image was opened in MAC Preview, rotated 180 degrees, and then saved again to PDF.
Four steps, two button pushes, and the PDF was fully explained. No need for forgery. No need for assembly from multiple source documents. No need to import features or alter details. Putting an even finer point on the explanation’s extremely high probability, it was also proved that the White House absolutely did possess at least one Xerox WorkCentre capable of producing the PDF. The fat lady had truly and loudly sung.
It is interesting to note the profound differences between how the NBC team’s investigation proceeded and how the Posse’s did. Zullo and Gallups were obsessed with secrecy, terrified that their information might get into the wrong hands and be used for some nefarious purposes. Every Posse act was conducted behind closed doors. Participants were sworn to confidentiality. “Expert” reports were suppressed. Challenges to evidence and conclusions were taken as personal attacks. And (they claimed) all their most powerful and important evidence was known only to them.
In contrast, NBC and team did everything in the open. They published to the web every step of the process and all their findings. They exposed their work to as broad an audience as possible, inviting and incorporating ideas and criticism as they went. They allowed opposition “researchers” to challenge their work at every turn, and went out of their way to explore and account for every birther criticism in essentially real time. While yes, they were on occasion compelled to snark, they were still a completely open book. They were the antithesis of birther paranoia and opacity.
By the beginning of August the Xerox Workflow had been so comprehensively verified and replicated that RC was ready to take the battle to the birthers. This is not to say that the general birther community was not already aware of what had been taking place on NBCs blog. Lengthy anxious discussions of the Xerox workflow could already be found in places like Free Republic as early as August 3rd. Even some hardcore birthers were shaken by the findings.
Gallups and Zullo tried to keep control of the situation by feigning complete disinterest.
On August 2, PPSIMMONS Radio released an audio clip by Gallups entitled “100% PROMISES! The Obama Fraud Case – LATEST UPDATE.” As usual it contained no update, but Gallups was not lying about the 100% promises. In barely over seven minutes, Gallups uttered the word “promise” twelve times (once every 36 seconds) trying desperately to keep alive the illusion that the “Big Plan A” was unfolding according to schedule. When all you have is lemons, you make lemonade. And when all you have are promises, you make a lot of them.
Most fascinating, though, were the signs that Gallups and Zullos confidence had been shaken by… something. Along with his promises Gallups was also offering preemptive excuses on why he would not be able to keep them. First he would promise that after several presentations to congressmen and their staffs “these congressmen are telling us that they will move forward with this information with a plan to move to a congressional investigation.” But then just moments later, he would explain that “We cannot promise you that these congressman and VIPS will do what they say they will do, or what they are intimating that they will do, or what they are saying they are planning to do. We can only tell you what they’re saying. And we can only promise you that the information that we are releasing about these meetings and their plans are accurate and truthful.”
It was as if even Gallups did not believe them.
More embarrassing was that they had lost control of their most reliable Congressional narrative; that Congressman Steve Stockman was on board and working with the Posse to commence a Congressional investigation of the President’s birth. Having connected with Stockman first at CPAC and then at CSPOA, a lot of Carl Gallups Ministry’s bandwidth had been invested in conveying the impression that they were working together as a highly coordinated team. But as July had segued into August, Stockman was talking to everybody it seemed except for Zullo and Gallups. While WND was getting “exclusive interviews” and other sources were breaking comments by Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida that Stockman was readying a “bill” on the issue, Gallups couldn’t even manage to get Stockman to reschedule the Freedom Friday appearance he had blown off months earlier. Zullo and Gallups were relegated to simple bystanders, unable to do more than comment on other people’s Stockman stories and pretend to be encouraged by the news.
Other signs indicated that the investigation was flailing. A few weeks prior, Zullo had been instructing the birther faithful to stand down from letter writing campaigns to their congress people.Suddenly, he had reversed direction and was now asking them to write those letters after all, stressing paper letters rather than e-mails. On August 16th Zullo and Gallups were back together on the Freedom Friday show to “out” Congressman Jeff Miller yet again, as if no one remembered they had already done that three and a half months prior. And while “update” after “update” offered nothing of their own initiative to report, their worst nightmare was rising out of the Obot community.
Word was getting out; the “forger” had finally been found. It was a Xerox machine.
On the August 23rd broadcast (part 1 and part 2) of Freedom Friday, Gallups and Zullo reconvened to offer their first response in a set of messages so mixed they might have been using a blender. On the one hand, they wanted to reassure the birther faithful that there was nothing to see here. They began by trying to dismiss the Obots as simultaneously “irrelevant” and engaged in “a big disinformation campaign.”
Gallups: Mike, what’s your response to these Obots, in my opinion these nobodies, these irrelevant little people, running around crying on national talk radio about how you won’t tell them anything. And you’re a professional criminal investigator in a criminal case getting information before Congress but they’re whining because you won’t tell them what you know.
Zullo: Well Carl, I think they’re delusional. I think they’re deluded that they’re some vessel of authority somewhere, I don’t know in what stratosphere. But I don’t owe them anything. I have never engaged them in two years. I don’t really pay a lot of attention to them. And what little I do know of them besides from the identities of a few and one that I am intently focused on now, um, it really just seems to me to be nothing more than a big disinformation campaign. It goes beyond even misinformation, it is disinformation. And for a definition, now its false information that is deliberately and a lot of times covertly spread in order to influence public opinion or to obscure the truth.
The two then proceeded to pay attention to the “irrelevant little people” for the entire rest of the show segment. Gallups engaged in a bit of adolescent penis waving, offended that RC (whom he would not identify by name) might consider his BlogTalk show in the same breath as Freedom Friday. Zullo (revealing that he was apparently a listener) described RCs show as “like the 1950s party line. You know they should just sit around in their feety pajamas and talk to each other.” For however “irrelevant” the Obots might have been, they were apparently living in Gallups sand Zullo’s heads rent free.
But if anybody had been expecting an actual response to the Xerox workflow, they would be disappointed. Recounting an earlier program in which an Obot had called into confront Gallups with the Xerox findings, he recounted the story and then dissembled:
Gallups: But my response was, because of what I know, I said, “I will not give any details of the criminal investigation but I can say this. That allegation that’s just made about the Xerox machine, it is of no concern to the Arpaio investigation.” I, uh, I said, “Zullo and Arpaio are miles down the road ahead of that.” And I mean, if that’s what they think is the golden bullet they are going to be sorely disappointed. Did I answer that correctly? And should we say anything else? Is there anything else you want to say or is that just kinda where it needs to be? Or if I said something wrong correct me.
Zullo: No, you answered it the way that I would answer it. It is absolutely nothing of concern to us. It is not exculpatory on any level. And there isn’t anything I’m going to say about it.
Zullo: You know, if these people think they have exculpatory evidence, then send signed affidavits with your computer files and the experts that did the analysis and we’d be more than happy to look at it. But don’t disseminate this nonsense over the Internet and think that I have some obligation to you. Because I don’t.
The cavalier dismissal was not doing a very effective job of masking what was going on underneath the covers. They were at least concerned enough to begin laying the foundation for a fallback position on the President’s eligibility should their claims regarding the birth certificate have actually come a cropper.
Gallups: But, but you guys are way down the road ahead of this Xerox machine thing. You’re aware of it. You’re aware of every detail of their allegations. You guys have done your thing. You’re way beyond that. And your case does not rest on that. Nor does it really rest totally on the PDF. I mean there’s just so much to this that people don’t know. You’ve got three to four hundred pages of criminal investigation stuff.
Less than a week later, Gallups could not constrain himself from investing more of his time obsessing over “these irrelevant little people” and the Xerox workflow which was supposedly “of no concern.” On August 29th he released a desperately defensive PPSIMMONS Radio clip entitled “Obamabots Now SUSPECTS?! Obots going CRAZY over Obama Fraud Case!” Gallups again spent most of the clip in a pointless spasm of macho posturing regarding the size of his… audience. He repeated the bald but vacuous assertion that:
The Xerox machine that they’re talking about? It is of no consequence to this investigation. It is of no concern. Zullo and his team completely, I gotta be careful of what I say here because I don’t want to give away any information. Bottom line is they’re very aware of the whole allegation. They have investigated it to the hilt. It is of no concern. It is of no concern.
Gallups then continued with an exercise in disingenuous quibbling:
There is no machine anywhere in the world that exists wherein a birth certificate can be placed in it, the button pushed one time, and every one of the anomalies that’s on the Obama birth certificate that can be replicated exactly, and especially some of the most condemning anomalies. And that’s as far as I’m gonna go. There is no machine that exists that does that.
Of course no Obot had claimed that one machine and one button push created the White House PDF, because no one machine did. The Xerox workflow was a workflow of the sort used tens of thousands of times every day by organizations posting ordinary documents to the World Wide Web. In very few of those cases was the intent either forgery or fraud. But what came next was a bit of surprise:
The Obamabots may have found a machine that produces several anomalies that appear to be similar to those on the Obama birth certificate, but that does not derail this investigation. But let me tell you what it does do. It opens up a whole other branch of the investigation. That’s for certain.
The workflow that was of “no concern” and “no consequence” apparently had consequences after all. Even with Gallups’ obligatory weasel words, he was admitting that Obots had accomplished what until now the Posse’s “experts” had alleged was impossible. What Gallups was not admitting was that among those “several anomalies” it did explain were all of the digital anomalies that served as the core of Zullo’s press conferences, at the CSPOA conference and (as we would soon learn) in his private presentations to Congressmen.
And the “irrelevant little people” that Gallups considered delusional and that Zullo didn’t “ really pay a lot of attention to, well suddenly they were very interesting and relevant. In fact, Gallups asserted that they were his “prime suspects, from the beginning.”
I can tell you this. The Zullo investigation is now looking at persons of interest, specific people, specifically because of the Obamabots going frenetically crazy over this so-called Xerox machine evidence. So, the bottom line is, again, it is of no concern. They can keep printing their little articles and their little news rags and talk to themselves on their little party-line BlogSpot radio programs with 10 or 20 people as they scream among themselves. They can continue to call into the real radio programs and try to derail the conversation, but that’s all they can do. In the meantime a whole different line of investigation has been opened now.
By early September it was clear that the workflow which Gallups and Zullo had asserted was “of no concern” had actually been receiving a lot of attention within the Posse since at least the prior month. It was discovered that the Posse’s favored amateur digital document “expert,” Garret Papit, had already begun tests to replicate the Xerox findings. Someone stumbled upon his first attempt which had been inexplicably posted as an embarrassing YouTube in which he was unable to get his Xerox workstation to even work. When the video became the subject of much Obot mirth, it was quickly pulled.
Papit was also offered the opportunity to comment on the Xerox workflow by the Obama Conspiracy Theories Blog. After all, it was Papit’s report that was most directly and decisively eviscerated by the work of NBCs team. Apparently, the standard Posse gag order remained firmly in place. Papit demurred:
Unfortunately I’m not at liberty to discuss it at this point. But sit tight. It will be covered in due time. … Once I am allowed to discuss it I will be more than happy to address your points.
Papit either was never finally allowed to discuss it, or he ended up not quite as happy as he thought he would. He has not been heard from since.
Zullo and Gallups had for months kept up the facade that not only was their evidence of the birth certificate’s forgery 100% incontrovertible, but that every few days or so it had been augmented with more and better proof. Protected behind a wall of criminal investigatory secrecy was supposed to be evidence even more powerful than that they had first made public on March 1, 2012; evidence that the Posse was sharing only in closed door meetings with VIPs of standing who could propel the investigation forward to the level of a congressional investigation. VIPs with standing like Congressman Rob Woodall, representing Georgia’s 7th District.
Already mortally wounded by the Xerox workflow, the death rattle of the birth certificate investigation apparently took place in Representative Woodall’s office on September 6th, 2013.
According to the organizer, “(T)he meeting was established for the sole purpose of opening up a channel of communication between Rep. Woodall and Lt. Mike Zullo.” Since Zullo was joining by phone, he was not able to see an important detail of the meeting’s proceedings. While Zullo believed he was engaged in another private meeting behind closed doors, the entire discussion was actually being videotaped for eventual posting to YouTube. As the videographer would declare when he posted it three days later:
The meeting represents the first such on the record exchange having been recorded for the American public whereby Lt. Zullo as a law enforcement official is directly disclosing to a U.S. Congressman irrefutable evidence of crimes surrounding the President of the United States and his eligibility.
Within hours, Zullo frantically called the videographer [RC: this video was posted by Kevin Powell, aka “Pixel Patriot] demanding it be taken down. There was a reason why the meetings took place behind closed doors, but it was not the one that Zullo and Gallups had been asserting for months. The video exposed that real reason in all its pathetic glory. Zullo and Gallups had been lying all along.
There was no “new evidence.” There were no additional “nails in the coffin.” There was nothing that had ever been held back specifically for important meetings like this. There was only the exact same information that Zullo had announced to the press conference in Maricopa County on March 1, 2012. Zullo talked of layers. Zullo talked of how the Registrar’s Stamp could be “moved about the page.” Zullo talked only of things that the Xerox workflow had already destroyed as any real evidence of forgery. There was nothing else.
The video was quickly scrubbed without explanation. Even the article about the video posted on the Birther Report Blog was scrubbed, also without explanation. Birthers were left scratching their heads over what had just happened and why.
That moment marked a seismic shift in the Posse narrative. While neither Zullo nor Gallups would ever actually come clean regarding how decisively their birth certificate claims had been put to rest, never again would the birth certificate or “evidence of its forgery” be anything more than an embarrassed aside. All that was left on that subject was pretense. Oh… pretense and anger.
The narrative would no longer be about proving a fraud, it would now be about putting people in jail. Despite the fact that no crimes could be identified, especially now that the evidence of a forgery had been so comprehensively disproved, the birthers were out for blood. What had generally been just idle claims would now morph into idle threats.
Zullo was coming to get the Obots.
[RC: This is the eighth in a series of guest articles by Frank Arduini. Here is Part VII.
(I am particularly interested in the next article. ;)]