Fact Check

Barack Obama's Passport

Barack Obama traveled to Pakistan in 1981 using a non-U.S. passport?

Published Jul 14, 2009

Claim:   Barack Obama must have used a non-U.S. passport to travel to Pakistan in 1981.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, June 2009]

More questions, and this time some good questions.

While I've little interest in getting in the middle of the Obama birth issue, Paul Hollrah over at FSM did so yesterday and believes the issue can be resolved by Obama answering one simple question:

What passport did he use when he was shuttling between New York, Jakarta, and Karachi ?

So how did a young man who arrived in New York in early June 1981, without the price of a hotel room in his pocket, suddenly come up with the price of a round-the-world trip just a month later?

And once he was on a plane, shuttling between New York, Jakarta, and Karachi, what passport was he offering when he passed through Customs and Immigration?

The American people not only deserve to have answers to these questions, they must have answers.

It makes the debate over Obama's citizenship a rather short and simple one.

Q: Did he travel to Pakistan in 1981, at age 20?
A: YES, by his own admission.

Q: What passport did he travel under?
A: There are only three possibilities:

1. He traveled with a U.S. Passport,
2. He traveled with a British passport, or
3. He traveled with an Indonesia passport.

Q: Is it possible that Obama traveled with a U.S. Passport in 1981?

A: No. It is not possible.

Pakistan was on the U.S. State Department's "no travel" list in 1981.

Conclusion: When Obama went to Pakistan in 1981 he was traveling either with a British passport or an Indonesian passport.

If he was traveling with a British passport that would provide proof that he was born in Kenya on August 4, 1961, NOT in Hawaii as he claims.

And if he was traveling with an Indonesian passport that would tend to prove that he relinquished whatever previous citizenship he held, British or American, prior to being adopted by his Indonesian step-father in 1967.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the American people need to know how he managed to become a "natural born" American citizen between 1981 and 2008.

Given the destructive nature of his plans for America, as illustrated by his speech before Congress and the disastrous spending plan he has presented to Congress, the sooner we learn the truth of all this, the better.

Count me in as one of those inquiring minds who'd at least like to know the answers to these easily answered (by Obama) questions.


Origins:   This item is yet another of many similar pieces purporting to offer some bit of evidence demonstrating that Barack Obama is not a native-born citizen of the U.S. and thus is ineligible to be President of the United States. The premise in this case is that a young Barack Obama visited Pakistan back in 1981, a country he allegedly could not have traveled to on a U.S. passport, and thus he must have used a passport issued by some other country, such as the U.K. (Obama's father was a Kenyan and thus a British subject) or Indonesia (where Obama lived for a while after his mother married an Indonesian citizen) — a circumstance supposedly demonstrating that Barack Obama wasn't born in the U.S., once held multiple citizenships, or at some point gave up his U.S. citizenship.

During a fundraiser in San Francisco in April 2008, Barack Obama made reference to a visit he had undertaken to Pakistan during his college years (a journey he

had not mentioned in either of his books). His campaign press secretary, Bill Burton, later provided some additional detail about that trip to curious journalists: During the summer of 1981, when he was twenty years old, Barack Obama visited with his mother and half-sister in Indonesia, then embarked on a three-week trip to Pakistan with a college friend whose family lived in Karachi. However, the claim that Barack Obama must have set out on that trip to Pakistan using a non-U.S. passport is false: The U.S. State Department did not include Pakistan on a "no travel" list barring Americans from traveling there in mid-1981, and evidence documents that Americans could in fact freely visit that country at that time.

The U.S. State Department issues Travel Warnings (which caution travelers about "long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable") and Travel Alerts (which caution travelers about "short-term conditions, generally within a particular country, that pose imminent risks to the security of U.S. citizens") but those warnings are purely advisory — they do not prohibit Americans from traveling to the listed countries. The fact that the U.S. State Department issued an informative Travel Advisory for Pakistan in August 1981 (to make American citizens aware of updated visa requirements for entering that country) demonstrates that U.S. passport holders could freely travel to and from Pakistan at the time of Barack Obama's visit there.

Moreover, during that same time period (mid-1981), New York Times assistant news editor Barbara Crossette visited Pakistan and wrote a column about her experiences, a piece in which she offered tips to other Americans who might wish to visit that country. Additionally, her column prompted a follow-up letter from John S. Brims, then the U.S. Consul General in Lahore, Pakistan, in which he "welcome[d] an influx of Americans" who might have been inspired to come to Pakistan by her article and also offered helpful tips for tourists traveling to that country by rail from India:

One of the pleasures of the Foreign Service is being able to serve in cities like Lahore, and I would welcome an influx of Americans who might have been inspired to come by Barbara Crossette's piece, "Lahore, a Survivor With a Bittersweet History."

But please caution them.

While tourists can obtain a free, 30-day, non-extendable visa to Pakistan at the Wagah border crossing (on the rail route from New Delhi to Lahore), tourists cannot make the reverse journey from Pakistan to India through the same crossing unless they already have an Indian visa. The Indians only offer this service, so far as I know, to tourists debarking at airports. We have had a number of Americans stranded in Lahore who did not know this, and they tend to be too discouraged to enjoy the city.

Many other news articles from 1981 reference either Americans' traveling to Pakistan or the Pakistan government's making efforts to encourage visits from U.S. tourists.

In short, if Barack Obama did visit Pakistan in the summer of 1981, he — like all other Americans — could have openly done so bearing a U.S. passport.

Last updated:   14 July 2009


    Giegerich, Steve.   "Pakistani Tourism Promotion Misfires with Local Agent."

    The [Fredericksburg] Free Lance-Star.   11 March 1981   (p. 16).

    Brims, John S.   "Lahore."

    The New York Times.   23 August 1981.

    Crossette, Barbara.   "Lahore, a Survivor with a Bittersweet History."

    The New York Times.   14 June 1981.

    Goodenough, Patrick.   "Few Details Known About Obama's Three Weeks in Pakistan."

    CNSNews.   3 November 2008.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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