Fact Check: Former President Barack Obama Was NOT Arrested For Espionage -- It's A Made-Up Story

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: Former President Barack Obama Was NOT Arrested For Espionage -- It's A Made-Up Story Totally Fake

Was former President Barack Obama arrested for espionage? No, that's not true: A website completely made up the claim that Obama, the 44th president of the United States, was arrested on November 28, 2020. The article used direct quotes from a Department of Justice press release about a former CIA officer who was arrested and charged with espionage -- the press release and the arrest had nothing to do with Obama.

The claim appeared as an article published by Conservative Beaver on November 28, 2020, titled "Former President Barack Obama arrested for ESPIONAGE" (archived here), which opened:

Barack Obama, a former President of the US, was arrested on Nov. 28, 2020, on a charge that he conspired with a business partner of his who also was a former CIA officer to communicate classified information up to the Top Secret level to intelligence officials of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

Former President Barack Obama arrested for ESPIONAGE - Conservative Beaver

The article is completely false and made up on Conservative Beaver, a self-described "Conservative News. Canadian Style," website.

The article claims, "The Criminal Complaint containing the charge was unsealed this morning."

The link does not show a criminal complaint. As Lead Stories previously reported, the website has a history of publishing hoaxes and the screenshot of the supposed unsealed court document it offers as proof is photoshopped. This link goes to a Twitter account that references a tweet by "Shane Smedley." The tweet was posted in the article. It is not a criminal complaint.

Subsequent tweets posted by Smedley claimed he had inside information about Obama being arrested but offered no proof.

The article claims "Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii Kenji M. Price, Assistant Director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division Alan E. Kohler Jr., and Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Honolulu Field Office Eli S. Miranda made the announcement."

These are all real people but an announcement made was about a former CIA officer arrested and charged with espionage in August 2020, not Obama.

The Conservative Beaver articles quotes the Department of Justice's August press release without attribution -- and the release had nothing to do with Obama being arrested. The quote is in reference to the arrest of Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer. He was charged with conspiring with a relative who was also a former CIA officer "to communicate classified information up to the Top Secret level to intelligence officials of the People's Republic of China (PRC)," the August 2020 DOJ press release said.

This paragraph was in the Conservative Beaver story that falsely claimed Obama was arrested, but the paragraph is a direct quote lifted from the press release on the arrest of Ma in August:

The trail of Chinese espionage is long and, sadly, strewn with former American intelligence officers who betrayed their colleagues, their country and its liberal democratic values to support an authoritarian communist regime," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. "This betrayal is never worth it. Whether immediately, or many years after they thought they got away with it, we will find these traitors and we will bring them to justice. To the Chinese intelligence services, these individuals are expendable. To us, they are sad but urgent reminders of the need to stay vigilant."

Lead Stories reached out to the Department of Justice and Obama's office for a comment.

For the DOJ, the U.S. Marshals Service public affairs duty officer said in a December 1, 2020, phone call with Lead Stories: "I would have heard of it and I haven't."

President Obama was scheduled to appear on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on Friday, December 4, 2020, according to a tweet from the show.

This story will be updated if a response is received from Obama's office.

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  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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