Candidate for President (Democrat)
Marital Status: Married (Michelle)
Prev. Occupation: Attorney, Lecturer
Prev. Political Exp.: IL Senate, 1996-2004; US Senate, 2004-present
Education: BA Columbia University, 1983; JD Harvard University, 1991
Birthplace: Honolulu, HI
Religion: United Church of Christ
PO Box 803638
Chicago, IL 60680
Phone: (312) 698-3670
Email Barack Obama: http://capwiz.com/paaia/mailapp/?candidid=194742
NOVA Iranian-Americans for Obama: https://my.barackobama.com/page/group/NOVAPersiansforObama
Asian Americans for Obama: http://www.barackobama.com/asian-americans-pacific-islanders
Obama believes there must be a happy medium regarding civil liberties, in which the U.S. government does what is necessary to keep the nation safe while still preserving the freedoms by which America defines itself. During his presidential campaign in 2008, Obama stated that “…we must give law enforcement the tools it needs to investigate, disrupt, and capture terrorists...” but that at the same time “...we need real oversight to avoid jeopardizing the rights and ideals of all Americans.”
In January 2009, Obama signed Executive Order 13491. The order mandated the closing of secret overseas prisons operated by the CIA, while requiring the CIA to use only the 19 methods outlined in the Army Field Manual during interrogations. This ended President George W. Bush’s policy of allowing the agency to use certain secret methods forbidden to military investigators. The order also specified that people “detained and interrogated in any armed conflict” be “treated humanely” and not subject to “violence to life and person,” including torture and murder, “nor to outrages upon personal dignity (including cruel and inhuman treatment)” whenever they are in U.S. custody or detained in a facility owned or operated by the U.S. Obama has consistently expressed strong opposition to torture and to the use of waterboarding in interrogations. In November 2011, he said: “Waterboarding is torture. Anybody who has actually read about and understands the practice of waterboarding would say that that is torture. And that’s not something we do--period.” Although Obama forbade torture, there have been reports of the practice being continued unofficially by some interrogators.
Executive Order 13491 also stipulated that the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay would be closed within a year. However, as of July 2012, the camp remains open. The Obama administration has cited several reasons for this situation, including widespread fear that many of the detainees could pose a threat to Americans if transferred to prisons within the United States. In March 2011, Obama reversed a two year old order halting military charges against detainees, and permitting trials to begin again with revamped procedures. For detainees who will not receive trials, Obama ordered a review of their cases within a year, and then every three years after that, to determine whether they remain a threat, and whether they should be scheduled for military trial or be released. The order also requires compliance with the Geneva Convention, and the international treaty banning inhumane treatment and torture. At the same time, Obama released a statement saying he was committed to closing Guantanamo eventually and to trying some terror suspects in civilian criminal courts.
In May 2009, Obama stated that he would revamp, instead of reject, the system of military tribunals created by George W. Bush to try terrorism suspects. He said: “Military commissions have a long tradition in the United States. They are appropriate for trying enemies who violate the laws of war, provided that they are properly structured and administered.” In August 2009, the Obama administration said it would continue the Bush administration’s practice of extraordinary rendition, in which terror suspects are sent abroad for interrogation and detention, but promised to monitor their treatment so they would not be tortured.
On February 25, 2010, Obama approved a four-year extension of three provisions of the Patriot Act which were about to expire. One of the sections was the “roving wiretap” power. This allows federal authorities to listen in on conversations between foreign suspects, even when they change their locations or the phones they are using. Another section, commonly known as the “library” provision, gives the government access to the personal records of terrorism suspects, permitting the investigation of a large spectrum of personal issues. The third section to be renewed was the so-called “lone wolf” provision. This gives the government the power to investigate foreigners with no known links to terrorist groups. The approval of secret federal courts is necessary for any of these three provisions to be used. In February 2011, Obama signed an additional three year extension of these provisions. In May, speaking about the Patriot Act, he said: “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat.”
On December 31, 2011, Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law. Simultaneously, he released a statement saying he had reservations about important components of the law--particularly the provision that permits the military to indefinitely detain those--including U.S. citizens-- suspected of assisting al-Qaeda or other terrorists. Obama said that he signed the act “chiefly because it authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, crucial services for service members and their families, and vital national security programs that must be renewed.” Obama administration officials said that the president believed that “...to detain Americans in military custody indefinitely without trial, would be a break with our traditions and values as a nation...” At the same time, one official said that Obama did believe that U.S. citizens can be detained temporarily, and that the military has the right to capture and detain American citizens who are in a state of armed conflict with the U.S.
The Obama administration has adopted some of the stances on wiretapping of George W. Bush’s administration, arguing that government wiretapping laws and programs cannot be challenged in court. In September 2010, the administration expressed interest in drafting bills to make the wiretapping of emails and the Internet easier. In 2008, the FISA Amendment Act was passed, which authorizes the government to eavesdrop electronically on the phone calls and emails of Americans without a probable cause warrant as long as one of the parties’ communication is outside the U.S., in order to acquire “foreign intelligence information.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the act immediately. In February 2012, the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling that sustained the challenge, saying that the organization doesn’t have the standing to bring the case because they have no evidence they or their clients overseas are being targeted. In May, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
Regarding his views on religious freedom, Obama in 2009 said that the separation of church and state is important because it “protects our democracy” and “protects the plurality of America’s religious and civic life.” At the Iftar dinner Obama hosted at the White House in 2010, he said that “religion has flourished in our borders precisely because Americans have had the right to choose--including the right to believe in no religion at all.” Obama supported the construction of Park 51, a Muslim community center near the site of the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan, saying: “our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”
Barack Obama on Homeland Security
Executive Order 13491
Obama Orders Secret Prisons and Detention Camps Closed, New York Times, January 22, 2009
Barack Obama engages GOP challengers, Politico, November 14, 2011
Obama to Revamp Military Tribunals, Washington Post, May 15, 2009
U.S. Says Rendition to Continue, but With More Oversight, New York Times, August 25, 2009
Obama Clears Way for Guantanamo Trials, New York Times, March 3, 2011
Obama's Guantanamo Shift, Council on Foreign Relations, March 10, 2011
Obama: A disaster for civil liberties, Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2011
Obama position on Guantanamo, 2012 Presidential Candidates
Officials Push to Bolster Law on Wiretapping, New York Times, October 19, 2010
With Reservations, Obama Signs Act to Allow Detention of Citizens, ABC News, December 31, 2011
US would make Internet wiretaps easier, Associated Press, October 2, 2010
Obama Administration Asks Supreme Court to Dismiss ACLU Challenge to Warrantless Wiretapping Law, American Civil Liberties Union Blog, February 17, 2012
Barack Obama Candidate Report on Civil Liberties, ACLU Liberty Watch
Obama’s Iftar Dinner Remarks, August 11, 2011
Prior to his election in 2008, Obama promised to push for a “comprehensive immigration reform” bill during his first year in office, a bill which would chart a path to permanent residency for the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants. In order to create bipartisan support for immigration reform, Obama and congressional Democrats adopted a strategy of increased deportation and border security measures to build bipartisan support for reform legislation. In July 2010, Obama vowed to “improve our enforcement policy without having to wait for a new law.” During the first three years of Obama’s administration, 1.1 million immigrants were deported, more than under any other president since the 1950s. However, during Obama’s first three years in office, no major immigration legislation was passed.
The most important immigrant bill considered was the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, commonly known as the DREAM Act. Obama strongly supports the DREAM Act. The act authorizes the cancellation of removal for aliens who entered the country before they turned 16 and are of good character, not eligible for deportation, and have been admitted to institutions of higher education. The act has been introduced in Congress several times since 2001 but always failed to pass.
In April 2010, the Arizona legislature passed the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, commonly known as SB1070. SB1070 makes it a state misdemeanor crime for an alien to be in Arizona without the federally required documents and requires that when there is reasonable suspicion of being an illegal immigrant, state law enforcement attempt to determine a persons’ immigration status during a “lawful stop, detention or arrest” or during a “lawful contact” not specific to any activity. Before SB1070 was signed into law, Obama sharply criticized it, saying that the bill threatened “to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.” In July 2010, the Justice Department filed suit against Arizona to stop the enforcement of SB1070 on the grounds that the law “is preempted by federal law and therefore violates the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.” The lawsuit held that the federal government has “preeminent authority” to regulate immigration matters. In June 2012, the Supreme Court struck down the provisions of SB 1070, which made it a state crime for immigrants to not carry papers, forbade illegals from working in Arizona, and allowed for warrantless arrests in specified situations. At the same time, the court upheld the section which required a law officer to ascertain the immigration status of someone on suspicions of being in the country illegally.
As a result of the stalling of immigration reform legislation in Congress, the Obama administration has adopted measures to make existing rules and policies fairer for immigrants. In the summer of 2011, Obama announced that the government would review the cases of 300,000 immigrants in deportation hearings in order to separate “low-priority" offenders from more serious ones. As explained by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the focus would be on deporting illegal immigrants with criminal records instead of those whose only offense is violating immigration laws. Those in the latter category would have their deportations delayed indefinitely. This has opened the door for many people who have lived in the U.S. since they were children, as well as students and elderly people, to legally remain in the country. According to researchers at Syracuse University, deportations fell to historically low levels during the last three months of 2011 because of this change in policy.
In January 2012, the Obama administration announced a major change in immigration rules. The change will eliminate the requirement that illegal immigrants leave the U.S. for a long period of time before they can ask the government to waive its ban on them reentering the U.S. legally. The new rule will allow relatives of U.S. citizens to petition the government for a “hardship waiver” before the illegal immigrant returns home to apply for a visa. The immigrant can apply for a green card once the waiver is approved. As a result, families will not have to be separated for long periods of time while immigration officials are reviewing their cases. The change does not require the approval of Congress because it deals with an administrative rule as opposed to U.S. law.
On June 15, 2012, Obama issued an executive order halting the deportation of many young illegal immigrants. Under the order, illegals under age 30 who arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, and who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, are eligible for “deferred action” concerning their deportation. In order to qualify for this, illegal immigrants must have a high school diploma or GED, or serve in the U.S. military. A conviction of more than one misdemeanor offense (for example, skipping a subway toll) will mean disqualification. The order is expect to protect about 800,000 young immigrants from deportation. Obama referred to those affected by the law as Americans “in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.” He called his order “a temporary stop gap measure” that would “lift the shadow of deportation from these young people” and create an immigration policy that was “more fair, more efficient and more just.” Obama said: “Now let’s be clear, this is not an amnesty. This is not a path to citizenship. It is not a permanent fix.”
Firm Stance on Illegal Immigrants Remains Policy, New York Times, August 3, 2009
Obama reverses stance on immigration, Washington Times, May 8, 2009
Obama as border cop: He's deported record numbers of illegal immigrants, Christian Science Monitor, August 12, 2010
Obama’s Big Blunders on Immigration, Colorlines, August 13, 2010
Profile of the DREAM Act, Immigration Legislation for Educated Minors, About.com
Latinos To Obama: Change On Immigration Or Else, Huffington Post, August 16, 2011
Obama's Immigration Record, About.com
Immigration in the Obama Administration, Penn State Law
Obama: ‘Irresponsible’ Arizona Immigration Bill Threatens To Undermine Basic Notions Of Fairness’, Think Progress, April 23, 2010
Arizona Immigration Law: Supreme Court upholds key portion of Senate Bill 1070, azcentral.com, June 25, 2012
Who May Qualify to Remain in U.S. Under New Obama Immigration Policy, Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2011
Fewer Youths to Be Deported in New Policy, New York Times, August 19, 2011
Insight: Immigration ruling won't be end of the road, Chicago Tribune, June 19, 2012
Obama to Permit Young Migrants to Remain in U.S., New York Times, June 15, 2012
Obama has consistently said that Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. A few days after he was elected in November 2008, he declared that a nuclear Iran was unacceptable, and in February 2009, he said that he would use “all elements of American power” to make sure such a scenario would never come to pass. At the same time, Obama has also indicated that he does not see Iran as an inherent enemy of the United States, and that he would like to see U.S.-Iranian relations improve.
Obama has repeatedly signaled his desire for a new era in relations between the U.S. and Iran. In March 2009, he released a video message to the Iranian people in which he said he wanted “to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” This was the first time a U.S. president had referred to Iran by its official name. Obama said that he was committed to pursuing “constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community," and that he wanted Iran to “take its rightful place in the community of nations."
In response to a lack of reciprocation on the part of Iran’s leadership to these overtures, and in light of the collapse of a deal in which Iran would have transferred uranium outside its borders to be converted into fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor, Obama has imposed further sanctions on Iran. In July 2010, Obama signed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act into law. The act strengthened sanctions against Iran which already existed and introduced new ones--making it harder for the Iranian government to buy refined petroleum and “goods, services and materials” necessary to modernize Iran’s oil and natural gas industries. The act also made it more difficult for the Revolutionary Guards and banks “that support Iran’s nuclear programs and terrorism” to engage in international financial transactions. Under the terms of the act, companies who want procurement contacts with the U.S. have to certify that they are not engaging, in Obama’s words, in “prohibited" business with Iran. In April 2012, Obama indicated that he would be willing to tolerate an Iranian nuclear program if Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, could back up a claim previously made that Iran “will never pursue nuclear weapons.” That same month, administration officials said they might be willing to accept Iran’s right to enrich uranium up to 5% purity (sufficient for medical research and other civilian purposes) if the Iranian government agreed to other U.N. restrictions.
In February 2012, Obama signed an executive order that, in the words of the Treasury Department, “blocks all property and interest in property of the government of Iran, the Central Bank of Iran and all Iranian financial institutions (regardless of whether the financial institution is part of the government of Iran) that are in the United States, that come within the United States or that come within the possession or control of U.S. persons.” In a letter to Congress, Obama said that the tougher sanctions were appropriate “particularly in light of the deceptive practices of the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian banks. Obama said that the problems included deficiencies in Iran’s anti-money laundering regime, hidden transactions among “sanctioned parties,” and the fact that the activities of Iranian banks pose a threat to the world financial system.
In August 2012, Obama announced penalties on banks in China and Iraq whom he said help the Iranian government avoid international sanctions. He also announced new sanctions on purchasing or otherwise acquiring Iranian petrochemical products.
Obama has maintained that while he very much prefers that diplomacy and/or sanctions be used to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, he is willing to use military force as a last resort. In September 2009, he announced that the U.S. was abandoning plans formulated during the administration of George W. Bush for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, and that America would create a missile shield to protect U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf from attack by Iran. The aim of the defense system was to counter a perceived threat from short and medium range Iranian ballistic missiles. In 2010, the U.S. announced that Patriot missiles would be sent to Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, and that two ships capable of shooting down Iranian missiles would be placed in the Persian Gulf.
Obama criticized the Iranian government’s crackdown on protesters following the 2009 elections, saying that he was “appalled and outraged" by the use of violence. He also said that he had “deep concerns" over the legitimacy of the elections. At the same time, Obama said he believed that it would be counterproductive for the U.S. to be “seen as meddling” in Iran’s internal affairs. In February 2011, Obama criticized suppressions of protests that broke out inside Iran in the wake of the overthrow of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, noting the contrast between the Iranian government’s violent response to protests with the restraint shown in Egypt. Obama said that “My hope and expectation is that we are going to continue to see the people of Iran have the courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedom and a more representative government.” At the same time, he said that the U.S. “cannot ultimately dictate what happens in Iran.”
While Obama has been dedicated to thwarting the nuclear ambitions of the Iranian government, he has also consistently emphasized his high regard for the Iranian people. He has repeatedly expressed his desire for the Iranian people to enjoy greater freedom and for close, friendly ties between Americans and Iranians. In March 2012, Obama made a special address during Norwuz concerning the U.S. government's direct relations with the Iranians. He noted that the Iranian people are “the heirs to a great and ancient civilization,” and acknowledged the contributions Iranian Americans have made to American culture. He announced the creation of a “Virtual Embassy," with the U.S. using Farsi on Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter, so that the Iranian people can see for themselves “what the United States is saying and doing. Additionally, Obama said that his administration is issuing new guidelines to enable Americans businesses to provide “software and services into Iran that will make it easier for the Iranian people to use the Internet.”
Obama noted that an “electronic curtain has fallen around Iran," citing the Iranian government’s censoring of the Internet, jamming of satellite signals to shut down television and radio broadcasts, and monitoring of cell phones and computers. He expressed the hope that “others will join us in advancing a basic freedom for the Iranian people: the freedom to connect with one another, and with their fellow human beings.”
Iran’s Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons Unacceptable: Obama, AFP, November 7, 2008
Remarks of President Barack Obama, Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq, The White House, February 27, 2009
U.S. Institute of Peace: Iran Primer Obama offers Iran 'new beginning', BBC, March 20, 2009
Obama Signs Executive Order Imposing New Sanctions On Iranian Government, Central Bank, Huffington Post, February 02, 2010
Obama Signs Into Law Tighter Sanctions on Iran, New York Times, July 01, 2010
Obama's Remarks at the Signing of the Iran Sanctions Act, Council on Foreign Relations, July 1, 2010
Obama Imposes Freeze on Iran Property in U.S., New York Times, February 06, 2012
Congress approves new sanctions on Iran, Businessweek, August 1, 2012
Obama’s signal to Iran, Washington Post, April 05, 2012
U.S. signals major shift on Iran nuclear program , Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2012
Obama Shifts Focus Of Missile Shield, Washington Post, September 18, 2009
US raises stakes on Iran by sending in ships and missiles, Guardian, January 31, 2010
Obama slams Iran crackdown, urges Mideast reform, Reuters, February 15, 2011
Facilitating Internet Freedom in Iran, Department of State, March 20 2012
Click here for Obama’s position statements on other issues.