Tags: obama | bush | wiretapping

Obama Backs Bush's Secret Wiretapping Program

Thursday, 16 Jul 2009 02:05 PM

By Dan Weil

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President Obama has sought to maintain several Bush administration national security policies that he opposed during the presidential campaign.

The latest is wiretapping.

Obama strongly backs the secret wiretapping program started by President George W. Bush, a White House lawyer told a federal judge in San Francisco Wednesday.

Obama "does not intend to use the state-secrets privilege to cover up illegal activities," Justice Department attorney Anthony Coppolino said in court, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

But in extreme situations, the administration might use wiretapping without warrants to guard "the sources and methods of detecting terrorist attacks ... the crown jewel of the United States national security administration."

The administration wants Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to dismiss a lawsuit by telephone customers alleging the government illegally listened to their phone calls and pulled their call records.

Conducting a trial "would risk exceptional harm to the national security," Coppolino said.

This isn’t the first such lawsuit. After Bush revealed that without court approval he approved government interception of phone calls and Emails made by Americans to suspected terrorists, customers filed similar suits against AT&T.

Walker dismissed those suits earlier this year, citing a 2008 law that shields the companies from liability for cooperation with government-authorized surveillance.

Plaintiffs in the new suit consist mostly of the same people who sued AT&T. That indicates the plaintiffs’ goals may be more political than financial.

As for other Bush administration policies that Obama has adopted after criticizing them during the campaign, he now agrees that more pictures showing alleged abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S. military personnel shouldn’t be released.

The photos would only "inflame anti-American opinion" and endanger U.S. troops, Obama said, echoing concerns raised by military commanders and members of Congress.

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