Published April 13, 2009
President Obama's most liberal supporters say they are dismayed and disgusted because this administration is invoking the "state secrets" privilege -- just as former President George W. Bush did -- to shield eavesdropping programs from public exposure.
"I wasn't happy when George Bush asserted that he could do these things and I'm not happy that President Obama is now agreeing with George Bush," said Jane Hamsher of Accountability Now.
"Other than being flat wrong, the Obama administration's position is seriously disappointing to those Americans who listened to candidate Obama's promises of a new era of government accountability and transparency, said Kevin Bankston, senior attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
EFF sued the government claiming that AT&T and perhaps other telecommunications companies cooperated with it to allow access to people's phone and Internet records -- a so-called dragnet in a search for terrorist communications.
Obama criticized the cooperation during the campaign, calling it an abuse of authority and arguing that the Bush administration "undermined the Constitution."
Now, the Obama administration is trying to have that same lawsuit dismissed.
"For the Obama administration now to try to have our lawsuit dismissed based on the exact same state secrecy arguments is quite a turnaround and very disappointing," Bankston said.
Top Obama officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, dispute the assertions claimed in the suit.
"Admiral Blair in two separate affidavits sworn under penalty of perjury has flatly said that the allegations of dragnet NSA surveillance are quote 'false' close quote," said Bryan Cunningham, a former CIA and Justice Department attorney.
After a full review, Attorney General Eric Holder and the administration has asked the case be dismissed, arguing that hearing it would cause "extremely grave harm to national security. "
"The Obama administration is making a very spirited, a very robust assertion of state secrets privilege just like the Bush administration did before it," said former Justice Department attorney Dave Rivkin.
"You would think that if the critics were sincere in the past but had real problems with the Bush administration they might take some note of this but no they are really not interested. They are just as disinclined to trust the Obama administration's officials when it comes to balancing individual liberty and public safety as they were with regard to .... officials of the Bush administration," he said.
"This is the attorney general and the director of national intelligence that were strongly supported by the left wing of the Democratic Party and I don't know what critics think happened," Cunningham said. "I don't know if they think Admiral Blair and Attorney General Holder got sent into the Dick Cheney mind meld machine or what."
Instead of the mind meld, analysts say Obama's eyes were opened as he learned more about the program and now realizes it is both lawful and necessary. But critics don't accept that. They think they've been betrayed by the man they expected to reverse almost every policy of the Bush years, especially this one.
FOX News' Jim Angle contributed to this report.