Barack Obama on Homeland Security

Last Updated : Oct 04, 2012


While in Congress, Senator Obama co-sponsored and voted for legislation to grant habeas corpus rights to detainees at Guantanamo Bay. During the 2008 campaign, Senator Obama stated that the lack of Habeas Corpus was un-American, unnecessary, fuel for extremism, and a danger to our troops. Senator Obama praised the supreme court ruling in Boudemiene v Bush which granted habeas corpus to the detainees, stating that it was an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law. One month after assuming office, the Obama administration was asked if it would grant the same rights to detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan or continue to oppose a law suit filed by the detainees there. In a two sentence statement, the Obama DOJ stated that it would continue the Bush Administration policy.

During the campaign, Senator Obama stated that the worst breaches of civil liberties were caused not by the PATRIOT Act, but rather through executive order by President Bush. He cited a number of policies that he would remove "with the stroke of a pen." He also noted that the Act did accomplish a number of things that were needed, such as the ability to monitor cell phone activities. After assuming office, he signed legislation to extend key provisions of the PATRIOT Act. 

Through the 2008 campaign, Senator Obama was adamant about the need to shut down Guantanamo Bay. He stated that the facility was a lightening rod for recruitment of muslim extremists and that the Bush administration had used a culture of fear to maintain such a place. Two days after assuming office, President Obama signed an executive order stating that Guantanamo Bay must be closed within a year and the detainees would be dealt with appropriately. Since that time, President Obama has not been able to find countries to take the detainees and has been unable to close the facility almost a year after the deadline.

During the 2008 campaign, Senator Obama repeated stated that he would end torture. Days after taking office, President Obama issued an executive order stating that only field manual approved techniques would be used to obtain information. He has not applied those criteria to Bagram Air Force Base or other bases in Iraq or Afghanistan.

In May of 2009, President Obama noted that there were five classes of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, one of these classes were of people who would not be put on trial of any kind and must be held indefinitely. That same month, President Obama authorized military commissions to continue with the conditions that no information obtained through torture be allowed, that detainees have greater latitude to chose their attorney, protections for those who refuse to testify, and removing the requirement that hearsay be proven false before discounted. In March of 2011, President Obama issued an executive order allowing new military tribunals to be started and initiating a policy of periodic review to determine the status of detainees to ensure they are in the proper class of detainee.


Timeline of Events Concerning Homeland Security

The timeline below shows the progression of events listed below.

  • September 2006 - Senator Obama speaks on the Senate floor about the need to restore Habeas Corpus
    • It is un-American
    • It is tyrannical
    • It is unnecessary to fight terrorism
    • It is a recruiting tool
    • It endangers US troops
  • March 20, 2007 - Senator Obama co-sponsors the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007
  • August 3, 2007 - Senator Obama co-sponsors the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007
  • September 19, 2007 - Senator Obama votes in favor of legislation to restore Habeas Corpus
  • December 2007 - Senator Obama accuses the Bush administration of creating a culture of fear
  • June 2008 - Senator Obama supports Boudemiene v Bush decision allowing Habeas Corpus to detainees
  • August 2008 - Senator Obama states that PATRIOT Act not that bad, but signing statements caused problems
  • May-Oct 2008 - Senator Obama campaigns on restoring Habeas Corpus and closing Guantanamo
  • November 2008 - Senator Obama's campaign statements note that he willrn
    • End the Use of Torture and Extreme Rendition
    • Close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center
    • Revise the PATRIOT Act
    • Eliminate Warrantless Wiretaps
    • Restore Habeas Corpus
  • January 22, 2009 - President Obama issues 3 Executive Ordersrn
    • Closing Guantanamo Bay in 1 year
    • Ensuring legal interrogation techniques
    • Review of detention policies
  • February 2009 - President Obama continues Bush Policy of stating that detainees have no right to legal system
  • May 15, 2009 - President Obama allow military commissions to continue with 5 changesrn
    • statements that have been obtained from detainees using cruel, inhuman and degrading interrogation methods will no longer be admitted as evidence at trial
    • the use of hearsay will be limited, so that the burden will no longer be on the party who objects to hearsay to disprove its reliability
    • the accused will have greater latitude in selecting their counsel
    • basic protections will be provided for those who refuse to testify
    • military commission judges may establish the jurisdiction of their own courts
  • May 21, 2009 - President Obama gives a National Security Speech where he outlines the 5 types of prisonersrn
    • Prisoners who will be tried in the federal courts
    • Prisoners who will be tried through military commissions;
    • Prisoners who have been ordered released by the federal courts;
    • Prisoners who will be turned over to other countries;
    • Prisoners who cannot be tried in court or through commissions but who will not be released
  • November 18, 2009 - Obama administration announces that there will be no civilian trial for KSM
  • March 7, 2011 - President Obama issues executive order allowing new military commissions to be started and initiating a periodic review program where each detainees status is reviewed every year


The PATRIOT Act Renewal

On December 15, 2005 Senator Obama spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act as it stood.


Boston Globe Interview

In December of 2007, Senator Obama was interviewed by the Boston Globe and asked about habeas corpus rights, detention, and surveillance.


2008 Campaign Event - PATRIOT Act

In August of 2008, Senator Obama was speaking at a campaign event and was asked why he supported the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act when it had been proven that the reasons for going to war were invalid (as per the person's question).


2008 Campaign Website Statements


Reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act

In February of 2010, President Obama signed an extension of the PATRIOT Act. The extension continued three key aspects of the PATRIOT Act:




Voting Record

FISA Amendment Acts of 2007

In February of 2008, the Senate voted on the FISA Amendment Acts of 2007. The legislation passed the Senate with bipartisan support 68-29, but was never raised in the House. The legislation primarily contained provisions to allow for the monitoring of terrorists overseas that were a continuation of expired provisions in the Protect America Act. It also granted immunity to telecommunications companies against their customers for giving information to the government without a warrant. Barack Obama cast a "No Vote"

Restore Habeas Corpus

In September of 2009, the Senate voted on an amendment to restore habeas corpus rights to the prisoners a Guantanamo Bay. The measure received a majority of the votes, but not enough to pass. Barack Obama voted in favor of the measure to restore habeas corpus rights to the prisoners.

Barack Obama voted in favor of the measure to restore habeas corpus rights to the prisoners.

Protect America Act of 2007

The Protect America Act of 2007 dealt with certain aspects of electronic surveillance and the overall war on terror. In the vote to pass the legislation, most Republicans supported the bill and only about 1/3 of the Democrats supported the legislation. Barack Obama voted against the Protect America Act of 2007.

Barack Obama voted against the Protect America Act of 2007.

Military Commission Act of 2006

The Military Commissions Act passed in response to a supreme court ruling which stated that stated that military tribunals established by the Bush administrations did not align with the UCMJ. The Act defined unlawful enemy combatants and allowed for the military tribunals to be held. It passed the Senate 65-34. Barack Obama voted against the Military Commission Act of 2006.

Barack Obama voted against the Military Commission Act of 2006.

USA PATRIOT Reauthorization Act

In March of 2006, congress reauthorized the USA PATRIOT Act. Despite the fact that the PATRIOT Act had become a controversial topic, only 4 Senators opposed the act in the actual vote. Barack Obama voted in favor of the USA PATRIOT Reauthorization Act.

Barack Obama voted in favor of the USA PATRIOT Reauthorization Act.


Sponsored and Cosponsored Legislation

Session-110; Bill Number-S 185; Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007 - Cosponsor

Repeals provisions of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that eliminated the jurisdiction of any court to hear or consider applications for a writ of habeas corpus filed by aliens who have been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as enemy combatants (or who are awaiting such determination) and actions against the United States relating to the detention of such aliens and to military commissions (thus restoring habeas corpus rights existing prior to the enactment of such Act).Allows courts to hear or consider legal challenges to military commissions only as provided by the Code of Military Justice or by a habeas corpus proceeding.

Session-110; Bill Number-S 576; Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007 - Cosponsor

A bill to provide for the effective prosecution of terrorists and guarantee due process rights.

Session-110; Bill Number-S 2088; National Security Letter Reform Act of 2007 - Cosponsor

A bill to place reasonable limitations on the use of National Security Letters, and for other purposes.

Session-109; Bill Number-S 2082; Extending Provisions of the PATRIOT Act - Cosponsor

A bill to amend the USA PATRIOT ACT to extend the sunset of certain provisions of that Act and the lone wolf provision of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 to March 31, 2006.

Session-109; Bill Number-S 2167; Extending Portions of the USA PATRIOT Act - Cosponsor

Amending the USA PATRIOT Act to extend from December 31, 2005, to February 3, 2006, provisions of that Act and the "lone wolf" provision of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

Session-109; Bill Number-S 2369; Delayed Notice Search Warrants - Cosponsor

A bill to require a more reasonable period for delayed-notice search warrants, to provide enhanced judicial review of FISA orders and national security letters, to require an enhanced factual basis for a FISA order, and to create national security letter sunset provisions.


[1] Website: Article: Obama and habeas corpus -- then and now Author: GLENN GREENWALD Accessed on: 11/27/2010

[2] Website: The Washington Post Article: Obama, McCain Respond to Guantanamo Bay Ruling Author: Michael D. Shear Accessed on: 11/30/2010

[3] Website: Hot Air Article: Hope and Change Administration: Detainees have “no constitutional rights” Author: ED MORRISSEY Accessed on: 11/30/2010

[4] Website: The Washington Times Article: Obama signs Patriot Act extensions Author: NA Accessed on: 11/30/2010

[5] Website: Article: Obama Restarts Guantanamo Trials Author: AP/ LOLITA C. BALDOR AND ERICA WERNER Accessed on: 03/15/2011

[6] Website: Boston Globe Article: Barack Obama's Q&A Author: Charlie Savage Accessed on: 03/23/2011

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