Obama Signs “Fiscal Cliff” Bill From Hawaii With Autopen – Here’s How

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The end of 2012 was a rocky ending for US lawmakers. While their citizenry was popping corks, they were desperately trying to stave off the “fiscal cliff” and thus spare us at least one pounding headache. Their efforts culminated on January 3rd when they finally passed a bill that they hope staves off the fiscal cliff.

Problem though. President Obama needs to sign the bill, and he’s 4,800 miles away in Hawaii.

No problem, they have the autopen.

The autopen is a machine that signs documents for you. Or, rather, transfers your signature to a sheet of paper. A file containing Obama’s signature can be sent by email, stored on a USB flash drive, then transferred to a card that is read by the autopen machine. The all important document is placed beneath the machine with a pen attached, and the signature is signed.

Obama has actually used the autopen two times prior: Nov. 28, 2011 while at the Pacific regional talks in Indonesia and May 26, 2011 in France while attending the G8 Summit. Interestingly (or annoyingly I suppose, based on your political leanings) Rep. Tom Graves (R., Ga.) questioned the constitutionality of a Presidential signature by way of machine after Obama had signed the bill from France extending the life of the Patriot Act. “I thought it was a joke at first,” he said.

Here’s a video of one type of autopen called Ghostwriter (it’s not known, however, whether or not the Ghostwriter is the same type the White House used to save Obama the second trip from Hawaii in a week).

Sometimes a president gets so busy it’s almost as if he has to be at two places at once.

Peter Murray

Peter Murray was born in Boston in 1973. He earned a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore studying gene expression in the neocortex. Following his dissertation work he spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at the same university studying brain mechanisms of pain and motor control. He completed a collection of short stories in 2010 and has been writing for Singularity Hub since March 2011.

Discussion — 5 Responses

  • Finno January 4, 2013 on 2:01 pm

    This seems a little antiquated. In the business world scans of signatures are legally acceptable in 99% of cases.

    If a scan or fax is not acceptable for the US government surely they could move into the electronic age and try using digitally signed documents using strong public key crypto.

    It seems silly that a mechanical pen is acceptable where a printed version of a signature is not.

    • phoenixxl Finno January 5, 2013 on 6:47 pm

      Antiquated ? What an understatement.

      This article has no place on singularity hub .

      • tevo55 phoenixxl January 7, 2013 on 8:56 pm

        Did you know Harry Truman used the auto pen? Don’t know what to make of this article. Is this article supposed to be about technology or politics?

  • Lucky Saint Luis January 4, 2013 on 5:14 pm

    Well whatever tech it is but you shall not comment about finance and tax without a clue about the toxic FIAT money wheel driving this world into darkage. Thanks and love your publications so far. HGL

  • Steven Wright January 10, 2013 on 7:12 pm

    This is awesome! Thank you for sharing