The government has dropped its criminal investigation of the whistle blower who exposed the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program to the New York Times in 2004, and will evidently not be filing criminal charges for the historic leak.
Thomas Tamm, a former Justice Department attorney, learned last year that government was no longer pursuing a case against him, according to Politico. Tamm had held a Top Secret/SCI clearance at the Justice Department’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review when he discovered the illegal NSA program and tipped off the Times. The paper held the story for a year, before breaking the news in a December 2005 article that set off a political and civil liberties firestorm that dogged George W. Bush through the end of his term, and earned the paper a Pulitzer.
The Times kept Tamm anonymous, and learned operational details of the spying from other sources. But in 2007, Tamm came home to find 18 FBI agents in his house. “They were all wearing body armor, they were all well armed,” he recalled in 2009. “They asked my kids if we had any secret rooms in the house … or whether I had any weapons. They were in my house for over seven hours.”
Tamm has maintained that his leak was not illegal. And when Obama took office in 2008, the future of any prosecution seemed uncertain. While campaigning, Obama had picked up on the warrantless wiretapping as a civil liberties talking point, but he’d also voted in the Senate to legalize the program and to grant retroactive legal immunity to the telecom companies that cooperated in the surveillance. Since his swearing in, Obama’ Justice Department has prosecuted more leakers than any other in recent history.
Which reminds us: Tamm is not to be confused with Thomas Drake, a different whistle blower who allegedly spilled the beans on costly, failed NSA programs to the Baltimore Sun in 2006 and 2007. Drake was charged in Maryland under the Espionage Act a year ago, and is headed toward trial.