Fact check: False article claims Barack Obama was ‘arrested for espionage’

An article circulating on social media alleges that President Barack Obama was arrested on November 28 for espionage. This is false. The manufactured article contains portions of a press release by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) on August 17 about the arrest of a former CIA officer.

Former United States President Barack Obama speaks on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden in Miami, Florida, USA, November 2, 2020. REUTERS / Marco Bello

The article, visible here (archived version here), was published on November 28 by a website that describes itself as a Canadian conservative news website (here), called The Conservative Beaver.

The first paragraph of the story reads: ‘Barack Obama, a former president of the United States, was arrested on November 28, 2020 on charges of conspiring with a business partner of his, who was also a former CIA officer, classified. information to the Top Secret level to intelligence officials of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). “The criminal charge contained in the charge was uncovered this morning,” he added.

The article alleges that “the announcement” of the alleged arrest was made by U.S. officials, including Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and U.S. Attorney for the Hawaii District Kenji M. Price; it also includes their alleged statements.

A Google search of the statements in question sparked a press release from DOJ on the arrest of Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official who was arrested on August 14. However, the release makes no mention of Barack Obama.

It appears that the first paragraph of the release in the story was processed by the Conservative allegation to refer Obama and a recent date. The fake story also says that Obama “conspired with a business partner of his who was also a former CIA officer”, while the DOJ release referred to a relative of his (Ma) who is also a former CIA officer was’.

The article contains virtually the same statements by the U.S. Attorney General, Alan E. Kohler Jr., Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, John C. Demers, Eli Miranda, Special Agent of the FBI’s Honolulu Division. .

Several media outlets reported on Mom’s arrest (here, here, here, here).

This fabricated article copied excerpts from a Justice Department press release about the arrest of a former CIA official, not President Obama. Reuters found no credible news reports about the alleged arrest. An event of this kind would be widely reported in the US and elsewhere.

Reuters recently denied the claim that George Soros had been arrested, also published by The Conservative Beaver (here).


Untrue. President Barack Obama has not been arrested. This fabricated article copied portions of a Justice Department press release about the arrest of a former CIA official.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.