The government has dropped its years-long investigation against a lawyer who blew the whistle on the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Criminal charges will apparently not be filed against anyone else who provided details about the program.
The Justice Department informed Thomas Tamm, a former Justice Department attorney, “seven or eight months ago” that the government was no longer investigating Tamm for leaking details on the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program to The New York Times in 2004, Politico reported on April 26.
Tamm discovered the illegal wiretapping program which allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on people without first obtaining a warrant. After the events of 9/11, then-president George W. Bush ordered the interception of certain phone calls and email messages into and out of the United States without a warrant, which likely violated the 1978 law governing intelligence-related wiretaps.
Tamm tipped off The New York Times in 2004, and the paper dug up operational details of the program before publishing the story in December 2005. Bush condemned the leak, claiming it was a breach of national security. Even though The Times didn’t identify Tamm, the FBI raided his home in 2007.
“I thought this [secret program] was something the other branches of the government — and the public — ought to know about. So they could decide: do they want this massive spying program to be taking place? … If somebody were to say, who am I to do that? I would say, ‘I had taken an oath to uphold the Constitution.’ It’s stunning that somebody higher up the chain of command didn’t speak up,” Tamm told Newsweek in 2008.
Tamm has insisted all along that his leaking the information was not illegal and did not break any laws.
The Justice Department told Tamm’s attorney, Paul F. Kemp, the investigation was being dropped partly because of concerns about how a jury might react to the controversial wiretapping effort, according to NPR. While the Justice Department would not comment on the status of the investigation, by all accounts, it appears to be dead.
Prosecutors have also ceased investigating Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency official who contributed reports of Bush’s wiretapping to The Times story.
“I have not heard anything from them in a very, very long time,” Joshua Dratel, Tice’s attorney, told Politico.
As a Senator and candidate, Barack Obama criticized the program, but has been quiet on the program or the investigation as president. Politico cited several federal prosecutors who speculated that it was too risky for the Justice Department to try to prosecute leakers for disclosing information about such a controversial program where the legality remains under dispute.
The program is still in place, although it has been modified since 2004.