Time for New Look at 2008 Obama Passport Breach

Among the unexpected findings of the Sheriff Arpaio cold case was this one:

Records of Immigration and Naturalization Service cards filled out by airplane passengers arriving on international flights originating outside the United States in the month of August 1961, examined at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. are missing records for the week of President Obama's birth, including the dates Aug. 1, 1961 through Aug. 7, 1961.

This revelation evoked memories of one of the great underreported stories of the 2008 campaign: the multiple breaches of the presidential candidates' passport records in March of that year.  In one of its more egregiously dishonest moments, the Washington Post headlined the story on March 22, "Rice Apologizes For Breach of Passport Data; Employees Looked at Files On Obama, Clinton, McCain."

The "Rice" in question is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  The offended party in the Post story was Barack Obama.  He told reporters that he expected "a full and thorough investigation," one that "should be done in conjunction with those congressional committees that have oversight function so it's not simply an internal matter."

It is not until the thirteenth paragraph of the Post story that the reader learns that of one of the three contract employees caught in the act worked for the Analysis Corporation, the CEO of which was John Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran.  The Post does report that Brennan donated $2,300 to the Obama campaign but suggests no deeper tie.  This information is offset by the revelation that the other two culpable contract employees worked for Stanley Inc., whose CEO Philip Nolan contributed $1,000 to the Clinton campaign.

Stanley, however, had been handling passport work for 15 years and had just been awarded a five-year, $570-million contract.  The company had no reason to play favorites in the 2008 campaign.  It promptly fired the two employees, neither of whom was likely working at the directive of Nolan or of the Clinton campaign.

Unlike Stanley Inc., a huge government contractor listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Analysis Corp. had fewer than 100 employees, and its one culpable employee escaped discipline.  The Post article tells us only that "his or her employment status is under review." 

Nor was Brennan a casual donor to the Obama campaign.  To its credit, CNN Politics saw the real news angle in the passport scandal: "Chief of firm involved in breach is Obama adviser."  As CNN reported, also on March 22, Brennan "advises the Illinois Democrat on foreign policy and intelligence issues."  He had even briefed the media on behalf of the campaign early in the month. 

After its initial article on the passport breach, the Post said not a single word about the incident or Brennan's connection to it.  Incredibly, the Post remained mute on the subject even in its 1,300-word front-page article of January 9, 2009, "Obama Taps CIA Veteran As Adviser On Terror; Brennan Has Drawn Fire on Interrogations."  The fact that an employee of Obama's new counterterrorism adviser had breached Obama's passport files just months earlier held no interest for the Post's allegedly nonpartisan editors.

A sidebar that emerged at the same time was the murder in Washington on April 18, 2008 of a fellow named Leiutenant (no misspelling) Quarles Harris.  He had earlier been apprehended for taking information off passport applications to procure fraudulent credit cards.  It is highly unlikely that this murder had any connection to the passport breach.

What likely did have a connection was Obama's strategic jab at the two people who stood between him and the White House at an April 2008 fundraiser in San Francisco.  "Foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton or Senator McCain," said the overconfident candidate.

Obama took particular aim at Hillary Clinton.  He countered her boast of having met leaders from 80 foreign countries with his real-world experience in several key outposts.

"I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college," said Obama in the way of illustration.  "I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic -- Obama has always had problems with noun-verb agreement] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee."

This declaration took ABC reporter Jake Tapper by surprise.  He thought it odd that he had not heard of this trip, especially "given all the talk of Pakistan during this campaign."  Indeed, Obama had introduced the general subject of Pakistan as early as Aug. 1, 2007.  As Tapper observed at the time, Obama talked about U. S. Pakistan policy as a way of challenging Hillary's perceived strength on foreign affairs.

Yet despite the strategic edge his personal Pakistan experience might have given him, Obama failed to mention his Pakistan adventure in that August 2007 speech or for the next eight months.

Had Tapper inquired further, he would have learned that Obama did not mention the Pakistan visit in either of his books, the 1995 Dreams From My Father or the 2006 Audacity of Hope.  Given that Obama used both of those books, especially Audacity, to emphasize his superior knowledge of the larger world, the omission of his Pakistan experience perplexes.

When Tapper asked the Obama campaign staff about the trip, they described it as a casual stopover to visit friends on the tail end of a trip to visit his mother and sister in Indonesia.  This, of course, would make a real reporter question why Obama had remained mum about the subject, at least until after his passport file had been accessed by at least one obvious sympathizer -- and possibly three.

Obama's most serious biographer, David Remnick, sheds little light on Obama's motives for going to Pakistan and none for staying quiet about it.  In The Bridge, Remnick tells how Obama first visits his friends Hamid and Chandoo in Pakistan during Ramadan "and then to Indonesia to see his mother and Maya" -- a three-week trip in all.  In 1981, Ramadan began on July 3 and ran for a lunar month.  Remnick is likewise mum on whether the Ramadan timing was purposeful.

In A Singular Woman, Janny Scott's biography of Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, Scott has Obama circling the world in the opposite direction and in a different time frame.

Scott writes of summer 1981, "Barry spent July in Jakarta, then went to Pakistan to visit a friend from Occidental [College] on his way back to the United States."

As confirmation, Scott includes a letter purportedly written in May 1981 to Dunham's employers at the Ford Foundation: "I would like to use my educational travel for dependent children to have my son, Barry, come out to visit us."  I say "purportedly" because Scott provides no detail at all of Obama's 1981 Indonesian visit.  She does, however, provide eyewitness testimony of a 1983 visit to Indonesia by Obama.

This seemingly gratuitous insertion of the 1981 letter to the Ford Foundation serves two purposes: it confirms the Indonesian leg of the trip, and it explains the financing behind it.  It would not overly matter that Scott, a New York Times reporter, and Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, would tell conflicting stories about this Asian junket were it routine.

But it was not.  At the time they were writing, each knew the trip was controversial.  Although Scott gives no hint of the controversy, Remnick does.  He quotes an old girlfriend of Chandoo, who accuses Fox News of twisting the Pakistan visit "into something awful."  What made the trip controversial was not so much what Obama did once he got to Pakistan, but how he got there. In 1981, Pakistan was not an easy or likely destination for an American tourist.

This prompted some noise in the blogosphere that Obama could not have traveled to Pakistan as an American citizen.  Quick to Obama's defense as always, FactCheck.org made the valid case that American citizens could travel to Pakistan in 1981 and thus dismissed the travel issue as "more 'Birther' nonsense."

The fact that Obama could have traveled to Pakistan on an American passport, however, does not mean that he did.  Not surprisingly, FactCheck fails to mention the variable that prompted the controversy in the first place -- namely, Obama's curious silence about the trip until April 2008.  Nor, of course, does FactCheck mention the event that took place just weeks before Obama's first mention of the Pakistan visit -- namely, the passport breach.  True to form, the word "passport" does not even appear in Remnick's 2010 book.

It remains to be seen whether Sheriff Arpaio and his posse will get to the bottom of Passportgate, but their effort should be applauded.  The mainstream's media's beef that Obama's background has been "thoroughly vetted" and that the various "conspiracy theories" about his origins have already been debunked is just junk disinformation on top of its earlier junk misinformation.

Basta!  Breitbart lives!

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