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Obama did not sign law authorizing federal agents to ‘snatch’ Portland protesters

July 22, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Former President Barack Obama signed the law authorizing federal agents to “snatch” protesters off the streets in Portland, Oregon.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The White House says 40 U.S Code 1315, under the Homeland Security Act of 2002, gives the Trump administration the authority to send armed federal agents to confront protesters in Portland. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush, not Obama.

THE FACTS: A false claim circulating on social media says people criticizing President Donald Trump for sending federal agents into Portland to clear protesters are ignoring that Obama signed the law that allows for that to happen.


“When everyone just blames Trump but forgets who actually signed the law authorizing federal agents to snatch protestors off the streets in Portland,” falsely claims a Facebook post shared more than 1,300 times with a photo of Obama smiling.

In early July, Trump sent federal agents to Portland to halt protests, stating it was necessary to protect federal buildings from protesters. State and local authorities oppose federal intervention and a lawsuit has been filed to stop the action.

Trump is relying on the Department of Homeland Security in unprecedented ways as he tries to bolster his law and order credentials by making a heavy-handed show of force in cities around the nation in the lead-up to the November elections, the AP has reported.

According to Stephen Vladeck, professor at the University of Texas School of Law, social media posts are falsely referencing the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 signed under Obama, saying that law authorizes the Trump Administration to deploy federal agents.

“It’s simply preposterous,” Vladeck said.“That statute includes a controversial set of provisions concerning military detention, but it has absolutely nothing to do with what’s happening in Portland,” he said.

The law, often referred to as NDAA, included detention provisions that could be interpreted to authorize indefinite military detention without charge or trial.

When questioned about the legality of sending agents with tactical gear to confront protesters against the will of local officials in those cities, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany cited Section 1315 during Tuesday’s press briefing.


McEnany claimed that Section 1315 “gives DHS the ability to deputize officers in any department or agency, like ICE, Customs and Border Patrol, and Secret Service” to protect property owned by the federal government.

“And when a federal courthouse is being lit on fire, commercial fireworks being shot at it, being shot at the officers, I think that that falls pretty well within the limits of 40 U.S. Code 1315,” she added.

Far from tamping down the unrest, the presence of federal agents — and particularly allegations they have whisked people away in unmarked cars without probable cause — has led to nightly protests that spiraled into smaller, chaotic crowds.


This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536