Reprinted from Reader Supported News
Former DOJ attorney Thomas Tamm reveals his first hand knowledge of illegal spying on Americans.
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The Washington DC bar announced recently that it would lodge ethics charges against Thomas Tamm, a Justice Department attorney who blew the whistle against the National Security Agency's illegal warrantless wiretapping program. This is despite the fact that the Justice Department ruled in 2010 that Tamm had not committed a crime.
Tamm came to the Department's attention in 2008 when he revealed that he had been one of the sources for a 2004 New York Times article on the wiretapping program, which President George W. Bush had begun in 2001. Tamm had learned that information gathered from the warrantless wiretaps was making its way into applications that the Justice Department was filing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court asking to conduct legal wiretaps. Fruit from the forbidden tree.
Tamm, believing correctly that his superiors were in on the program, elected to go to the press, rather than up the chain of command. This act was prescient. The Times later revealed that Attorney General John Ashcroft had approved of the program from the start.
Tamm has moved on with his life and is now a public defender in Maryland. He faces disbarment if found guilty.
But this whole situation isn't just about Thomas Tamm. It's about all national security whistleblowers. Thomas Drake, an NSA whistleblower, learned in 2006 that the NSA was conducting dragnet electronic surveillance on American citizens. He did go through the chain of command.
First, he reported the illegality to his superiors. He was told to mind his own business. Then he went to the NSA Inspector General. Again he was told to back off. He went to the NSA General Counsel and was told to drop it. He went to the Pentagon Inspector General, which then illegally destroyed evidence that Drake had presented. There is now a criminal case pending against employees there. Drake finally went to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, NSA's oversight committee, and reported the illegal surveillance.
His reward? Drake was charged with 10 felonies, including five counts of espionage. The case against him finally collapsed, but not [until] after he lost his job, his pension, his friends, and even his family.
But that's the plan. Even if there's no real legal case against the whistleblower, the Justice Department and other bodies, like bar associations, just keep filing charges to make the whistleblower defend himself, knowing full well that at the same time, the whistleblower is going broke and is being abandoned by his friends and colleagues.
Jesselyn Radack went through the same thing. Radack, a former ethics attorney at the Justice Department, complained up her chain of command that John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban," had been interrogated without having been read his rights and without having had access to an attorney. The information gathered in the interrogation was later used to prosecute him.
After Radack complained up her chain of command, the Lindh file was mysteriously purged. One of Radack's supervisors told her to walk away. Instead, she went to the media. Within months, she was fired from her job at Justice, and then fired from her next job with a private law firm after Justice officials told her new employers that she was likely to be indicted. (She wasn't.) She was placed on the "no-fly list," presumably as a terrorist sympathizer, and ethics charges were filed against her with the DC bar association. That was 14 years ago. Those charges are still pending. And she's still detained and harassed every time she goes through an airport.
Again, the Justice Department never seriously considered charging Radack with a crime. The goal was to ruin her. But they failed. She is now a celebrated whistleblower defense attorney.
NSA whistleblowers Bill Binney, Kirk Weibe, and Ed Loomis; State Department whistleblower Peter van Buren; NSA and CIA contractor Ed Snowden; and I all have similar stories.
The DC bar should be demanding that the Justice Department protect national security whistleblowers, not harass, indict, and prosecute them. It should then work to protect those whistleblowers. If the Justice Department took whistleblower disclosures seriously and investigated accusations of official waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality, there wouldn't need to be leaks to the press.
A good start would be for the DC bar to stop being the Justice Department's lap dog.
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