Thomas M. Tamm
Michael Issikoff, in Newsweek, systematically applies the coat of whitewash, drapes the red-white-and-blue bunting, and affixes the journalistic left’s paper mÃ¢chÃ© halo to Thomas M. Tamm, renegade attorney from the Department of Justice’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR), who leaked damaging allegations about the NSA foreign communications surveillance program to New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, ultimately resulting in their famous December 16, 2005 Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts story, which naturally won them the Pullitzer Prize.
Tam, you see, was understandably outraged by the following nefarious practice.
After arriving at OIPR, Tamm learned about an unusual arrangement by which some wiretap requests were handled under special procedures. These requests, which could be signed only by the attorney general, went directly to the chief judge and none other. It was unclear to Tamm what was being hidden from the other 10 judges on the court (as well as the deputy attorney general, who could sign all other FISA warrants). All that Tamm knew was that the “A.G.-only” wiretap requests involved intelligence gleaned from something that was obliquely referred to within OIPR as “the program.”
Obviously any fair-minded attorney would conclude that an instance of special handling of particular intelligence information or the exclusion from participation in its processing and examination by any subordinate judges of Justice Department officials always ipso facto constitutes a sufficiently grave breach of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the US Constitution to necessitate an immediate donation to the John Kerry Campaign and a covert phone call to the Times. What else is a patriotic American do?
Issikoff procedes to explain that Tamm’s Hamlet-like struggle with his conscience over leaking and Raskolinkov-like agonies over fear of being caught and punished made the poor soul depressed.
He had trouble concentrating on his work at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and ignored some e-mails from one of his supervisors. He was accused of botching a drug case. By mutual agreement, he resigned in late 2006. He was out of a job and squarely in the sights of the FBI. Nevertheless, he began blogging about the Justice Department for liberal Web sites.
And Tamm had good cause for fear.
With the investigative speed and precision the FBI is famous for, brandishing guns and wearing flak jackets, G-men promptly descended a mere two years later upon Tamm’s suburban home to seize his desktop computer, his children’s laptops, some private papers, and his Christmas card list.
Let that be a lesson to policy free-lancers, leakers, violator of the Espionage Act, and traitors everywhere!
Divulge highest level classified information, participate in undermining US counterrorism, act consciously to discredit the elected government you serve, and the FBI will come over and browbeat your family and steal your PC.
That, of course, is as far as it is going to go, if the administration you are discrediting happens to be George W. Bush’s. The Bush Administration has never been able to muster the intestinal fortitude needed to make sure that the people working in the highest level classified positions in its War on Terror are actually on its own side, and still less has it able to steel its nerves to the point where it dares actually to prosecute such cases.
The Bush Administration understands only too well that it would be represented, after all, in court in cases of that kind by representatives of the Bush Administration. The leakers and traitors would be represented by skilled counsel from leading white shoe law firms and the cream of the faculty of Ivy League law schools. The defendants would additionally have the mainstream media operating as full-time public relations managers and publicists. So I suppose the administration’s timidity may be at least partly exculpated by its self awareness of its own inadequacy.