Mara Zebest Debunked – Overselling the PDF – Introduction

In her report Mara Zebest writes

I, Mara Zebest, am preparing this report at the request of Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in support of the Cold Case Posse investigation.

The PDF birth certificate document released by the White House (shown in Figure 1) is a completely manufactured and fabricated computer generated image. The same source file was used to print a copy handed to the AP (shown in Figure 2), in which the AP scanned in the version handed to them. A third photograph version (Figure 3) was touted by Savannah Guthrie who claimed to have held and felt the seal on the document, but the original Internet posted images have been scrubbed.

The White House wants us to believe the PDF document started out in printed form on security paper retrieved from Hawaii—but this is not possible. All three versions manifest itself as a printed document only when the PRINT button is pressed from within the original manufactured document file. This would account for the transformation of a document containing different color backgrounds, and the ability to print with or without safety paper pattern (by turning a layer on or off ).

There is no doubt in my mind that this computer generated image never started out as a paper source document and was never scanned in as described by the White House—it was digitally created and manufactured.

As I have shown however, a simple workflow used on a Xerox WorkCentre such as the 7655 owned by the Whitehouse explains the artifacts much better than the appeal to a forger. The AP provided copy shows the data from President Obama’s COLB (Certification of Live Birth, aka short form) shining through, so it is clear that it was created by placing the original on a printer. Another version shows a PDF containing an embedded JPEG. As I will show, nothing in these documents supports a conclusion of fraud. On the contrary, I will show that a far more reasonable explanation is the workflow(s) used to create these documents.

Savannah Guthrie’s photographs are still available on the internet and shows, in addition to the document, also the raised seal.

I will show that Mara Zebest’s so called ‘artifacts’ can all be accounted for by realizing the simple workflow used to create the PDF file.

First observation is that the PDF is much smaller than a 300 DPI TIFF file. This means that the document has been heavily compressed. A simple workflow available on a Xerox WorkCentre helps understand how the document was ‘created’:

Note how the standard preset is “for Sharing & Printing”


  1. A staffer placed the original document which has been verified and certified by the Department of Hawaii, upside down on the printer
  2. The staffer selected ’email scan’ and entered the email address
  3. The staffer pressed print and the scanner captured and emailed the document

Behind the scenes however, the scanner creates a low resolution 72 DPI PDF and has segmented the text and the background using a proprietary Xerox approach which separates a document in one JPEG background layer and multiple monochrome bitmap layers of JBIG2 encoded text glyphs.

In addition, Edge Erase places a masking layer to hide imperfections found around the edges

These are standard settings found on the Xerox WorkCentre.

  1. The staffer receives the email with the attached document and opens it. She/he notices how the document is upside down and rotates it 180 degrees and then prints it as a PDF

As I have shown, the resulting PDF will explain all the artifacts.


6 thoughts on “Mara Zebest Debunked – Overselling the PDF – Introduction

  1. Mara Zebest claimed that the President’s image was photoshopped into the Situation Room photo during the Bin Laden compound raid. No one takes her seriously.

  2. Did she really?… ROTFL… She also appears to not like our President very much…

  3. I have seen questions as to why the safety paper is not visible (except in the dark area near the binding) on the AP photo. First, it is called security paper because it does not copy easily. Second. I printed a color copy of the LFBC and ran it through a gray scale scan on my home scanner. The background basket weave pattern disappeared nearly completely as it did in the AP photo.

  4. Zebest issued a silly challenge last year in an article published at Birther Reports:

    Taking into account the multiple 1-bit layers embedded in Obama’s file, combined with the associated color manipulation defined in the report; it is impossible to duplicate these file attributes through scanning or any other argument thrown at the debate which currently includes:


    Adaptive compression

    MRC (Mixed Raster Content) compression


    Adobe Acrobat Pro, and…


    Here’s a challenge to anyone who would like to defend the list of excuses or to supplement any additional excuses: It would be advised (before doing so) to carefully read the report, examine the provided figure of object code for the nine layers found in Obama’s PDF (with important properties highlighted). Then run tests to see if any of the described suppositions proposed in the above bulleted list (or any new excuses being considered) can produce object code exactly as seen in the capture (without manipulation). The final result must include eight 1-bit Image Mask true layers (with FlateDecode as seen in the figure), and one 8-bit ColorSpace layer (with DCTDecode as seen for this last layer). Oh, and as an added bonus, the 1-bit layers (all eight of them) need to have colors displayed that are NOT within a pure (grayscale color value) range of black.

    I think that NBC is actually pretty close to satisfying all the conditions in her absurd challenge.

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