By Jana Winter, ,
Published December 23, 2015
More than a month before Donald Trump began his media blitzkrieg over the issue of President Obama's birth certificate, the document was quietly moved to a more secure location within a dual combination-key lock safe inside the state's health department vault.
The certificate was moved there by Alvin Onaka, Hawaii's State Registrar, in response to what had already become an increasing number of media requests by FoxNews.com and others, according to sources.
"It is my understanding that the book has been placed in a smaller locked container in the same secure safe," Chiyome Fukino, who served as Hawaii's health department director for eight years until last December, told FoxNews.com in late February. "The safe is still in the department."
Fukino and others claim the additional security measure reduces the number of people with access to the much-sought-after document from a handful to just one: Onaka himself.
Officials in Hawaii had said state law prohibits them from releasing the information contained in the full birth certificate filing -- even if the president himself requested a copy.
But that didn't stop the president from requesting last week two certified copies of certificate of live birth from Director of Health Loretta J. Fuddy. On Monday, Fuddy complied.
"As director of health for the state of Hawaii, I have the legal authority to approve the process by which copies of such records are made. Through that authority, in recognition of your status as president of the United States, I am making an exception to the current departmental policy which is to issue a computer-generated certified copy," she wrote.
The copy was released to the White House press on Wednesday.
In 2008, then-candidate Obama released his "certification of live birth," the current and only official birth document released by the state of Hawaii. Hawaii did not provide copies of original longform documents since converting to electronic records between 1989 and 2001, said health department spokeswoman Janice Okubo.
Fukino, who left office in December, said that during her term as health director, Obama's birth certificate was moved from a file vault, where bound books containing vital records line the shelves in handwritten, leather-bound ledgers, in colors chosen over the course of decades -- and placed inside the vault's five-foot-tall, grey, metal combination and key lock safe that holds money and other valuables.
"After the 2008 elections, the Department of Health received a significant number of requests for a copy of President Obama's original birth registration by individuals who believe that the president is not a U.S. citizen," Fukino explained. "To assure the safety of the record, the bound volume was removed from the file vault and placed into a fireproof safe with limited access."
Fukino was ordered by then-governor Linda Lingle to view the document in 2008, and said she remains among the very few to have seen it prior to Monday, when Obama released a copy of his records to the public.
Obama's original certificate of live birth is bound with one ledger containing 499 other certificates of people born in Hawaii in 1961, according to Fukino. There are 500 sheets per book, and 35 volumes of 1961 birth records. The last series of digits in the registration number found on Hawaiian long form and current computerized-format birth certificates indicate which number volume the original document can be found inside the health department first-floor vault.
According to Fukino, all books bound in the 1960s, including the one containing Obama's birth certificate, have a bright orange elasticized canvas cover and the year of the birth designated on its spine.
The issue of Obama's birth certificate generated new interest in recent weeks following comments by Trump, among others. But Fukino said the original document was actually moved some time earlier, in response to a resurgence of interest raised by comments by made by Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie on the issue, and "to abide by state law in protecting the document from unauthorized use or theft."
Earlier this year, Gov. Abercrombie called off his much-publicized promise to reveal Obama's birth records. Hawaii state law dating back to 1949 precludes the disclosure of vital records, including birth certificates, to anyone without a justifiable interest—i.e. is the subject of the record or a relative—and it remains unclear why Abercrombie would have vowed to disclose the records in the first place.
But on Wednesday, the Hawaii Attorney General backed Fuddy's release of Obama's original longform birth certificate.
“The exception made in this case to provide President Obama with a copy of his original Certificate of Live Birth was done according to the letter of the law,” Attorney General David Louie said.
“Director Fuddy exercised her legal authority in a completely appropriate manner in this unique circumstance. We will continue to maintain the strict confidentiality requirements afforded to vital statistics records, such as birth certificates. These requirements help protect the integrity of the records, and keep us all safe from crimes, such as identity theft.”
Abercrombie issued the following statement on Wednesday:
“Considering all of the investigations that have been done and the information that has been provided, no rational person can question the President’s citizenship. We have found a way – once again – to confirm what we already knew: the President was born here in Hawai‘i. State officials of both parties have verified that President Obama’s birth records show that he was born in Honolulu.
“President Obama’s mother and father were dear friends of mine, and we must respect their memory. It is an insult to the President, his parents and to the Office to suggest that he was not born in Hawai‘i. The State of Hawai‘i has done everything within our legal ability to disabuse these conspiracy theorists. We granted the President’s request for certified copies of his birth certificate so we can all move on from this unfortunate distraction and focus on the real issues affecting people today.”