Claims that The Obama Foundation is keeping classified documents in an “abandoned furniture warehouse” contradict official statements and protocol regarding where the documents are kept. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has said they are and have been in control of both classified and unclassified records pertaining to the Obama administration, in accordance with federal law.
Articles (here) and social media posts (here) (here) making this claim point to a 2018 letter (here) signed by a representative of The Obama Foundation, that laid out the foundation’s agreement to provide financial resources to “digitalize, move and store records” to build the Obama Presidential Library. (here)
Posts on social media highlight the following section, which mentions “classified and unclassified” records and artifacts:
“The Obama Foundation agrees to transfer up to three million three hundred thousand dollars ($3,300,000) to the National Archives Trust Fund (NATF) to support the move of classified and unclassified Obama Presidential records and artifacts from Hoffman Estates to NARA-controlled facilities that conform to the agency’s archival storage standards for such records and artifacts, and for the modification of such spaces.”
This has led some users to allege that the Hoffman Estates facility in Chicago is administered by the Obama Foundation and currently holds classified records. Both claims are untrue.
NARA’s public statements regarding the Obama Presidential records can be seen (here).
WHO CONTROLS THE RECORDS?
According to the agency, after the end of the Obama administration in 2017, NARA took “legal and physical custody of Obama Presidential records” as ruled by the Presidential Records Act (PRA), a federal law that states that the United States “shall reserve and retain complete ownership, possession, and control of Presidential records” (here).
The Hoffman Estates facility once stored classified records, “in an appropriately secured compartment within the facility,” according to NARA. But since the Obama Presidential Library will be digital (www.obamalibrary.gov/about-us) (www.obama.org/obama-archives/), the agency transferred Obama classified records to another facility maintained by NARA in Washington, DC.
Approximately 30 million pages of unclassified records were moved to the Chicago facility, also administered exclusively by NARA, and remain there according to the agency.
In another statement, NARA detailed that The Obama Foundation did provide them with funds “to help convert the Hoffman Estates facility to cover some of the expenses of moving the classified records, but the foundation has never had possession or control over the records.”
Back in 2016, outlets like The Chicago Tribune (here) and The Daily Herald (here) reported on the future use of the facility, stating the materials would be held there until the Barack Obama Presidential Center was completed. Both reports mention that workers from NARA would handle the records. While the initial leasing agreement was set for six years, it has been extended until 2026, The Daily Herald reported on Aug. 3, 2022 (here)
The Obama Foundation did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.
Reuters contacted website PJ Media, one of the outlets that reported allegations about the Obama Foundation keeping classified documents. They have since deleted their article (here) and issued a correction (here)
False. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has said they are in sole control of all Obama Presidential records. The foundation did provide NARA with funds to adapt a facility in Chicago, a former furniture store, to store the records, and to transport classified records to another NARA controlled location, the agency has said.
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