A Signature History

The Federal Register, often called the Government’s daily newspaper, is published by the National Archives and contains rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as Executive Orders and other Presidential documents.  That includes signed legislation.  And the process for these documents includes signature verification.

Congress recently passed legislation to extend the Patriot Act.  The Act was set to expire at Midnight on the 26th of May while President Obama was in France.  In similar situations over the years a variety of techniques have been employed to ensure an authentic signature—White House staffers have flown to the President’s location, or the President has raced back to Washington in time for a signature.

In July of 2005 the Attorney General Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion, “Whether the President May Sign a Bill By Directing That His Signature Be Affixed To It,” authorizing the use of the autopen for signature.  At 5:45 a.m. (French time) just 15 minutes before the legislation’s expiration, President Obama authorized the first use of the autopen signature.  And that is what we will publish in the Federal Register as PL No. 112-14!

Thomas Jefferson’s Polygraph, 1806

From Monticello.org: http://www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/polygraph

For more information: