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Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle is playing a very insidious and dangerous game of stonewalling on the most secretive vital record in the state’s history.

Last Sunday, she told a New York talk-show host the state’s role in Barack Obama’s birth certificate drama has “been an odd situation.”

“This issue kept coming up so much in the campaign, and again I think it’s one of those issues that is simply a distraction from the more critical issues that are facing the country,” she added. “So I had my health director, who is a physician by background, go personally view the birth certificate in the birth records of the Department of Health, and we issued a news release at that time saying that the president was, in fact, born at Kapi’olani Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. And that’s just a fact and yet people continue to call up and e-mail and want to make it an issue, and I think it’s again a horrible distraction for the country by those people who continue this.”

Now I’ve already dealt with the Kapi’olani Hospital issue in a column on Saturday. No news release from any Hawaii state office has ever asserted that Obama’s birthplace was Kapi’olani. If Gov. Lingle would like to put out such a press release in 2010, that would be a public service. But she is flat-out lying if she claims her state has ever released information about a birth hospital before her dubious statement on a talk show in New York last week.

But I want to point out another striking contradiction in Lingle’s latest statement.

Though that 2008 news release never said what Lingle claims it said, the statement by state health director Chiyome Fukino did say something the governor must have forgotten about: “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 Hawaii.”

Wait a minute!

Didn’t Linda Lingle just tell us she ordered the review of the birth certificate?

And didn’t Chiyome Fukino say Lingle never instructed that the record be handled differently from any other?

Isn’t an inspection by the state’s top health director and a series of press releases about the contents of the document handling “different from any other vital record in the possession of the state of Hawaii”?

Does the governor of Hawaii routinely order the inspection of birth records?

Isn’t that highly unusual?

I would say it is.

When is this charade going to end?

When is the double-talk going to cease?

Why are the American people given so many different stories about Obama’s nativity?

Why is it all necessary?

Why is a birth certificate a state secret?

How could release of a birth certificate possibly compromise Obama’s privacy?

The public wants to see that document with their own eyes.

Why is the state of Hawaii releasing details in dribs and drabs over a period of years rather than asking Obama for permission to release the document?

Why is Obama fighting tooth and nail and spending millions of dollars keeping it secret?

The more people like Lingle make these absurd and contradictory statements, the more suspicion is aroused.

That’s the trouble with state secrets.

That’s why we have laws prescribing public disclosure on vital matters of public concern.

The public does have a right to know – especially on matters such as the constitutional eligibility of the president of the United States.

For heaven’s sake, if we can’t get that document, the term “freedom of information” no longer has meaning in this country.

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