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How President Obama barely beat the deadline to sign the Patriot Act extension -- without picking up a pen

May 27, 2011 |  3:02 am

Declaration of Independence Signing John Trumbull painting who do you suppose got to keep the historic feather?

Because extending certain provisions of the Patriot Act before they expired at midnight last night was deemed so essential to national security, the extension legislation was, of course, left until the last minutes, thanks to the political paragons of Congress.

Republicans wanted a permanent extension. Democrats didn't.

They settled on June 1, 2015.

After a feud about guns, the four-year Patriot Act Sunset Extensions of 2011 passed in the Senate Thursday 72-23.

Then, with barely 300 minutes to spare, the House passed the same measure, 250-153. Our colleague Lisa Mascaro carefully chronicles some of the bill's provisions, what all the government spooks can peek into now still with secret federal court approval.

Phew, that was close! Law-abiding terrorists were just waiting for midnight (Eastern Daylight) to start plotting on the phone.Obama Signature

But, wait! The Patriot Act extension couldn't become law until it was signed by the president.

And if this is Friday, Obama must be off on another foreign trip somewhere. Sure enough, they found him 3,719 miles away toughing out a couple of days with other G-8 leaders in the French resort of Deauville.

According to aides, Obama had to be awakened early Friday, which was after the deadline by French beach resort time.

The commander-in-chief reportedly reviewed the provisions carefully and ordered his signature affixed to said bill.

Wait! What? The president of the United States didn't actually sign it himself??

Remember, back in 2009 when Obama was so excited about the economic stimulus bill that didn't really work as well as Joe Biden promised everybody? And so Obama flew Air Force One out to Denver with the legislation to personally sign it there, for some reason?

Well, here's one of the dirty not-so-little secrets of American politics. Yes, the....

...Declaration of Independence was actually signed in person by everyone using a feather. Perhaps 200 copies were printed that night and only 26 are known to survive. We'll leave it to Nicolas Cage to find the original original.

The modern truth, however, is that a very large number of the very large number of presidential signatures that leave any White House on photos, letters, mementoes, books, are actually fake. False. As phony as a Donald Trump presidential candidacy.Nicholas Cage in National Treasure

You might call them legal forgeries.

Those signatures are actually made by machines, robo-pens, that replicate Obama's leftish scrawl almost perfectly. If a president actually signed all the things he's supposed to sign, he wouldn't have any time for photo ops, working out or golf.

So, according to the White House, upon President Obama's direct specific orders from France, a machine put his name on the legislation back in the White House, where midnight had yet to arrive. The official White House notice of the signing arrived with just six minutes to spare.

Hopefully, the presidential machine knew the actual date better than the president did in London on Monday.

Thanks to the thorough folks at ABC News, we all now know that some years ago a government lawyer named Howard Nielson wrote a helpful memo opining that such a surrogate signing was legal.

“We examine the legal understanding of the word 'sign' at the time the Constitution was drafted and ratified and during the early years of the Republic," he wrote. "We find that, pursuant to this understanding ..... we conclude that the President need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill to sign it within the meaning of Article I, Section 7" of the Constitution.

Hopefully, the signature-signing machine is unplugged at night to avoid any embarrassing missile launches by janitors dusting the equipment.

But given recent conspiracy theories surrounding other Obama legal documents, we figure that the legality of his absentee, post-deadline ordering of the Patriot Act extension's signing before the deadline won't be challenged in any federal court much before lunch hour today.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Signing of the Declaration of Independence, painting by John Trumbull; Larry Downing / Reuters; "National Treasure" (Cage).

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