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'Birthers,' you've been punked

Concerns about Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility – and true identity – have fostered a cottage industry of rumors, speculation and pranks.

Screenshot from BarrySoetoro.com

One prank centers on Obama’s former name, Barry Soetoro, which, when typed into a browser with a dotcom suffix, leads to the official White House website.

However, the domain name BarrySoetoro.com is not under the control of Barack Obama or the White House. It belongs to Tharwat Abdul-Malik of Atlanta, Ga.

According to an Internet “WhoIs” search, Abdul-Malik was issued the BarrySoetoro.com address in April 2008.

WND contacted Abdul-Malik after the domain name first starting making waves in 2009. He explained then that he bought it and several others relating to Barack Obama, including amabokcarab, or Barack Obama spelled backwards.

For a while in 2008, the address was a redirect to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign website. Abdul-Malik figured people searching for the name Obama used as a child when his mother married an Indonesian should end up reading about the campaign of Obama’s opponent.

“Right now the redirect goes to the White House,” Abdul-Malik said, because after the campaign was over, “there didn’t seem to be anywhere else to redirect it.”

He told WND he is a registered Republican but hasn’t been active politically; he’s just a software engineer with an interest in domain names.

“That’s about it,” he said.

Barry Soetoro is the name used by Obama while he attended school in Indonesia and possibly later. It has been cited in a number of lawsuits challenging Obama’s eligibility to be president, because records uncovered by the Associated Press show he was registered at Indonesian schools under that name as a child.

The president’s use of the name Soetoro as a child has raised the question of whether he was adopted by his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, and consequently lost his U.S. citizenship.

That is an issue because the U.S. Constitution bans anyone but a “natural born” citizen from being president. If Obama/Soetoro relinquished his U.S. citizenship at any point, or didn’t have it at birth, as some lawsuits have alleged, he then could be, at best, a “naturalized” citizen and, therefore, ineligible to be president.

Other scams

Several other rumors and pranks have flown around the Internet in an effort to send people genuinely inquisitive about Obama’s past on wild goose chases.

A popular email that has been widely circulated, for example, cites a purported Associated Press article reporting Obama’s lost records from his days at Occidental College. The article claims there is evidence Obama received financial aid as a foreign student.

The AP, however, has never released such an article, and its April 1 date suggests it was an April Fools joke. Obama’s records from Occidental remain undisclosed to the public.

The Internet also has been rife with fake Obama birth certificates, including a nearly convincing “Kenyan” document that was even submitted in court but that WND helped debunk in 2009.

Then in 2010, WND helped track down the real image behind a widely circulated photo purporting to show a sign declaring Kenya the “birthplace of Barack Obama.”

The image displays a green and white billboard with the message “Welcome to Kenya, Birthplace of Barack Obama.” It also features text in Arabic.

Emails circulating on the Internet contain this image of a billboard declaring Kenya to be the birthplace of President Barack Obama.

But while WND was unable to track down the trickster who crafted the online image, someone who had seen the original photograph came forward to expose the prank.

“I know that this picture is not taken in Kenya,” said Norway native Jan Krogh, speaking to WND from his current home in Vilnius, Lithuania. “It’s clear that there can be no doubt that it’s some joke or some hoax.”

Krogh, 45, said he was certain the false image was based on a photograph of a welcome sign for the Middle East town of Madha, Oman, on the Arabian Peninsula.

Former journalist Jan Krogh says this photo from Madha, Oman, that he posted on his Geosite website has apparently been altered to proclaim Barack Obama was born in Kenya. (courtesy geosite.jankrogh.com)

“I received this photo in 2002,” Krogh indicated. “It is taken in Oman. I know the photographer.”

He said the person who took the snapshot is a Swedish colleague.

“If you’re looking at the foreground. It’s the same spot on the metal plots,” he continued. “I can see that it’s the same background. There is a blue spot in the bottom-left corner which I also have on my photo, which is not from the background but maybe some pollution on the screen.”

A side-by-side comparison of the two images reveals the similarities. Jan Krogh says the sign proclaiming Kenya to be the birthplaces of Barack Obama has obviously been based on a photograph welcoming visitors to Madha, Oman, that is posted on his own website.

Caleb Payne, a former Arabic linguist for the National Security Agency, saw the Kenya-billboard photo and told WND: “I can assure you that the sign is a fake, not because of the picture, but because the Arabic text is completely incorrect. First, it is written left-to-right (Arabic is written from right to left) and second: the characters are not connected. Still funny, though! If you are curious, the Arabic reads as follows: Under Kenya is the Arabic for ‘Hawaii.’ The text at the bottom reads: ‘Not Barack Obama’s birthplace.'”

The ultimate scam?

The greatest “punking,” however, that may have been played on the American public is the one some people allege Barack Obama is behind.

On April 27, 2011, after three years and a considerable amount spent in legal fees dodging demands for proof of his presidential eligibility, Obama released copies of a document the White House claimed was Obama’s long-form Hawaii birth certificate.

Obama said at the time he hoped the release would put the questions to rest, and for many news outlets, the issue was settled.

But when the document the White House released was subjected to examination by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the result left many wondering if “birthers” hadn’t been “punked” again, this time by the sitting president.

As WND reported, Arpaio and his Cold Case Posse are conducting an extensive examination of the document purported to be his long-form birth certificate and of his Selective Service registration form. They’ve found probable cause that both documents are forgeries.

Arpaio now believes a congressional investigation might be warranted and has asked that any information relevant to the investigation held by other law enforcement agencies be forwarded to his office.

“A continuing investigation is needed to identify the identity of the person or persons involved in creating the alleged birth certificate forgery and to determine who, if anyone, in the White House or the state of Hawaii may have authorized the forgery,” Arpaio said.

Read the preliminary findings of Sheriff Arpaio’s Cold Case Posse investigation after six months investigating Obama’s constitutional eligibility to serve as president in “A Question of Eligibility,” co-authored by Jerome Corsi and Mike Zullo.

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