Autopenning love

7 Jan

autopen02-sizedSome people made a fuss when it was said the President signed the fiscal cliff bill using an autopen.

There’s no reason for that, people have been using them for years, although usually not for something like major legislation.

It’s all perfectly legal.

Politics 101 is holding Monday Class.

We touched on autopens a long time ago.

We suggest to go back and refresh yourself here.

Think of the number of signatures a Mayor or Governor or President has to do daily.

With letters, birthday wishes, proclamations, policies and so forth – it can add up to hundreds.

There’s not enough time in the day for all that.

Except for major items, the Mayor, Governor, President rarely signs all that stuff.

It’s all done by a bunch of people in a back room with a strange looking machine.

Although the White House won’t tell how it works, we will.

There are two types.

The old, cheap ones uses a big metal disk inside that has been cut so it will mimic a person’s signature when the pen writes.

The newer ones store it electronically in the device, usually on a SD card.

All this thing does is makes a copy of the president’s pen strokes and saves them in the system’s memory for future use.

You line up the paper in the proper place and push the GO button.

Any pen or pencil can be loaded into the machine.
George W. Bush liked Sharpies.

Bush never used the machine to enact legislation, so President Obama gets the first for that by signing an extension of the PATRIOT Act via autopen while he was in Europe.

The first autopens showed up in the 1930s.

A 1936 article in Popular Mechanics described how the machine recorded a signature on “a master record, comparable to a phonograph,”and was transcribed by a “secret process” to make it difficult to steal one’s signature.

Harry Truman is said to be the first president to use the autopen.

As you can imagine, the security for this machine is extraordinary.

Being able to fake the president’s signature to lead to all sorts of interesting things.

The White House treats the presidential autopen’s security with the secrecy you might expect for the most powerful man in the world.

The White House won’t even say how many autopens the administration uses, what they look like, where they’re kept, or who makes the machine.

Here’s a look at one in action.

Class dismissed.

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