- Democratic Member of Congress
- Co-chair of the Progressive Caucus
- Former agent of Black Panther leader and convicted killer Huey Newton
- Collaborated with the Marxist dictatorship of Grenada to deceive the U.S. Congress
- Voted against using military force against terrorists following the 9/11 attacks
- Has consistently voted against U.S.-led military action, regardless of circumstances
Born in El Paso, Texas in July 1946, Barbara Lee has been a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1998, representing California's 9th Congressional District.
While attending Mills College in Oakland, California during the early 1970s, Lee worked as a volunteer for the local chapter of the Black Panther Party's Community Learning Center. She also worked on the 1973 Oakland mayoral campaign of Panther co-founder Bobby Seale, and she served as a confidential aide to the Panthers’ “Minister of Defense,” Huey Newton. During this period, Panther members referred to her as “Comrade Barbara.”
In 1975 Lee earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from UC Berkeley.
In the 1980s she worked as a staff member for the radical Left Democratic congressman Ron Dellums, who headed the House Sub-Committee on Military Installations. Aided by Lee, Dellums used his authority to impede U.S. foreign policy with regard to the Communist dictatorship of Grenada, where many Soviet bloc advisers, in conjunction with Cuban military personnel, were busy constructing an airport capable of accommodating Soviet military planes. As the ranking Democrat member of the House Armed Services Committee, Dellums traveled to Grenada to conduct an on-site “fact-finding” tour and on his return whitewashed the Grenadian dictatorship:
“[B]ased on my personal observations, discussion and analysis of the new international airport under construction in Grenada, it is my conclusion that this project is specifically now and has always been for the purpose of economic development and is not for military use…. It is my thought that it is absurd, patronizing and totally unwarranted for the United States Government to charge that this airport poses a military threat to the United States’ national security.”
What legislators did not know at the time was that Dellums, before testifying to Congress, had previously submitted, through his emissary Barabara Lee, his prepared report (about the airport) to Grenada's Communist dictator for the latter’s approval and/or revisions. The minutes of a Politburo meeting attended by that dictator and his military command stated:
"Barbara Lee is here presently and has brought with her a report on the international airport that was done by Ron Dellums. They have requested that we look at the document and suggest any changes we deem necessary. They will be willing to make the changes."
When Dellums retired in 1998, Barbara Lee won his vacated congressional seat and has held it ever since.
In June 2002, Lee joined 30 fellow members of Congress (including such notables as John Conyers, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Cynthia McKinney, and Maxine Waters) in filing a federal lawsuit to block President George W. Bush from withdrawing the U.S. from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which had been signed in 1972 with the old Soviet Union. The lawsuit named Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as defendants.
A member of the League of Women Voters, Lee in mid-2004 suggested that the U.S. was incapable of guaranteeing that its own political elections would be fair and free of corruption. She was one of 13 congressional representatives who tried (unsuccessfully) to arrange for the United Nations to monitor the upcoming elections that November.
On July 29, 2004, Lee was a guest speaker at an event moderated by Tim Carpenter, national director of Progressive Democrats for America, at Roxbury Community College in Massachusetts. Titled "Beyond Boston: Building the Progressive Wing of the Democratic Party," this conference also featured such speakers as Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, John Conyers, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson (Sr.), James Zogby, Tom Hayden, Medea Benjamin, and Tom Andrews.
A vocal critic of the Iraq War, Lee has supported Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s proposal to create a cabinet-level Department of Peace (DOP) in the executive branch of the federal government. The DOP’s amorphous role would be to emphasize “non-violent conflict resolution at both domestic and international levels,” “strengthen nonmilitary means of peacemaking,” and “promote the development of human potential.” Lumping together political and personal issues, Kucinich and Lee envision the DOP dealing with such disparate matters as weapons reduction, nuclear disarmament, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, criminal rehabilitation, violence against animals, gun violence, gang and school violence, hate crimes, and the establishment of a “peace curriculum” in the schools.
In 2005 Lee and 40 fellow Democratic members of the House of Representatives established the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus (OICC), which: (a) contended that America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq had been launched on the pretext of manipulated intelligence and lies, and (b) agitated for a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Iraqi theater of war. OICC’s nominal co-founders were Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Lynn Woolsey, John Conyers, Charles Rangel, Jan Schakowsky, William Delahunt, and John R. Lewis.
Because of Lee’s unwavering anti-war stance, she became an icon of the “peace” movement. One of her particularly staunch supporters was Barbara Lubin, executive director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance.
Lee currently chairs the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and formerly co-chaired the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives. During the course of her political career, Lee has voted:
- against the development of a national missile-defense system;
- against the authorization to bomb Iraq in 1998 in retaliation for Saddam Hussein's persistent refusal to allow weapons inspections by the United Nations;
- against sending U.S. military forces into Kosovo and Yugoslavia in 1999 (she was the only House member to vote against this measure);
- against the use of military force against the Taliban in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks (she was the only House member to vote against this measure);
- against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001;
- against the post-9/11 anti-terrorism measure known as the Patriot Act;
- against allowing the U.S. government to use electronic surveillance to investigate suspected terrorist operatives;
- against a bill permitting the government to combat potential terrorist threats by monitoring foreign electronic communications which are routed through the United States;
- against an October 2002 joint resolution authorizing U.S. military action in Iraq;
- against the establishment of military commissions to try enemy combatants captured in the war on terror;
- in favor of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq immediately and by a preordained date;
- against President Bush’s 2007 decision to deploy some 21,500 additional U.S. soldiers in an effort to quell the violent insurgents in Iraq;
- in favor of a proposal to expedite the transfer of all prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention center;
- against requiring hospitals to report (to the federal government) illegal aliens who receive emergency medical treatment;
- against the Real ID Act, which proposed to set minimal security requirements for state driver licenses and identification cards;
- against separate proposals calling for the construction of some 700 miles of fencing to prevent illegal immigration along America's southern border;
- against a proposal to grant state and local officials the authority to investigate, identify, and arrest illegal immigrants;
- against major tax cut proposals in September 1998, February 2000, March 2000, July 2000, May 2001, May 2003, October 2004, and May 2006;
- against a welfare reform bill designed to move people off the welfare rolls and into paying jobs;
- in favor of prohibiting oil and gas exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR);
- against a proposal to fund offshore oil exploration along the Outer Continental Shelf.
In 2008 Lee endorsed Senator Barack Obama for U.S. President. “I liked his message of fundamental change, which was as close to a revolutionary message as we have had in decades,” said Lee. She became a Western Regional co-chair of Obama's campaign.
Lee is a strong supporter of Van Jones. After the latter was appointed as the Obama administration's "Gree Jobs Czar," Lee said:
"I am so very pleased that Van Jones, a constituent, friend and strong advocate for green jobs has been chosen to be a special advisor to the White House Council on Economic Quality. Van has been at the forefront of the green jobs movement and has shown us all the way to utilize green collar jobs as a pathway out of poverty."
In April 2009, Lee was part of a delegation of seven CBC members who traveled to Havana to meet with former Cuban president Fidel Castro. After the meeting, Lee and her cohorts praised Castro as a warm and hospitable host, and called for an end to America’s longstanding ban on travel to Cuba. "The fifty-year embargo just hasn’t worked," said Lee. "The bottom line is that we believe its time to open dialogue with Cuba." Reflecting on her moments with Castro, Lee said, “It was quite a moment to behold.”
Lee's affinity for Castro's Cuba was nothing new. In her 2008 book Renegade for Peace & Justice, the congresswoman Lee wrote: “On many occasions I have taken people to Cuba to educate them about the realities of Cuban society so that they can make judgments for themselves whether the negative propaganda about Cuba that we consume in the United States is justified.” She also criticized the Bush administration for having deposed Jean Bertrand Aristide, the Marxist president of Haiti.
In April 2013, Lee sponsored a bill stating that climate change could lead to drought and reduced agricultural output throughout much of the world, which in turn would be particularly harmful to women and could, in some cases, force them to engage, for financial reasons, in the dangerous business of prostitution. Said the bill: "[F]ood insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health."
Author and political commentator David Horowitz has called Lee “an anti-American communist who supports America’s enemies and has actively collaborated with them in their war against America.”