Thomas M. Tamm, American Hero and Patriot

This is the guy who blew the whistle on the illegal NSA wiretap surveillance program:

Thomas M. Tamm was entrusted with some of the government’s most important secrets. He had a Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearance, a level above Top Secret. Government agents had probed Tamm’s background, his friends and associates, and determined him trustworthy.

It’s easy to see why: he comes from a family of high-ranking FBI officials. During his childhood, he played under the desk of J. Edgar Hoover, and as an adult, he enjoyed a long and successful career as a prosecutor. Now gray-haired, 56 and fighting a paunch, Tamm prides himself on his personal rectitude. He has what his 23-year-old son, Terry, calls a “passion for justice.” For that reason, there was one secret he says he felt duty-bound to reveal.

In the spring of 2004, Tamm had just finished a yearlong stint at a Justice Department unit handling wiretaps of suspected terrorists and spies—a unit so sensitive that employees are required to put their hands through a biometric scanner to check their fingerprints upon entering. While there, Tamm stumbled upon the existence of a highly classified National Security Agency program that seemed to be eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. The unit had special rules that appeared to be hiding the NSA activities from a panel of federal judges who are required to approve such surveillance. When Tamm started asking questions, his supervisors told him to drop the subject. He says one volunteered that “the program” (as it was commonly called within the office) was “probably illegal.”

Tamm agonized over what to do. He tried to raise the issue with a former colleague working for the Senate Judiciary Committee. But the friend, wary of discussing what sounded like government secrets, shut down their conversation. For weeks, Tamm couldn’t sleep. The idea of lawlessness at the Justice Department angered him. Finally, one day during his lunch hour, Tamm ducked into a subway station near the U.S. District Courthouse on Pennsylvania Avenue. He headed for a pair of adjoining pay phones partially concealed by large, illuminated Metro maps. Tamm had been eyeing the phone booths on his way to work in the morning. Now, as he slipped through the parade of midday subway riders, his heart was pounding, his body trembling. Tamm felt like a spy. After looking around to make sure nobody was watching, he picked up a phone and called The New York Times.

Scott Johnson, astoundingly enough (I know, I know, it’s not really astounding at all), is upset because Tamm broke the law:

Unfortunately, Newsweek doesn’t directly address the criminal component of the question posed in the article, but it’s not particularly difficult. Among other things, Tamm violated section 793 and section 798 of the espionage laws. The harder question is whether the New York Times should be prosecuted for violating these laws, a question I took up in the Standard column “Exposure.”

Scott’s concern for the law is quite selective.

Good German.

9 Responses to “Thomas M. Tamm, American Hero and Patriot”

  1. Ken says:

    From http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2008/12/15/the-thomas-tamm-legal-defense-fund/ :

    A lot of readers have asked about how to donate to Tamm’s legal defense fund. In that regard, I contacted Mr. Tamm’s attorney, Paul Kemp and obtained the information; here is the response:

    Thanks for your inquiry. The address of the defense fund is:

    Thomas Tamm Legal Defense Fund
    Bank of Georgetown
    5236 44th Street
    Washington, DC 20015.

    Tom appreciates your support and that of your readers. [Some
    unrelated chit chat on another matter redacted]

    Paul F. Kemp

  2. Chief says:

    “Good German?” No such thing. Impossible.

    As far as I am concerned, Mr. Tamm is an American Patriot of the highest order. Whistle blowers need a lot more protection.

  3. Kathy says:

    Thanks for this, Ken.

  4. Martha Still says:

    Just read the Newsweek story; my vote is that he’s a hero!

  5. Jim McBrien says:

    Tamm reported the infraction to the press which is one of the founding ways in which we as citizens can report misdeads fo political superiors.

  6. Randy Brown says:

    Thomas Tamm is the DEFINITION of a patriot. Contrary to the absurd “Country First” slogan of McCain and the Republicans this year, Tamm, indeed, put his “Country First”, putting his career and his freedom on the line. I wish I could contribute more, but I’m sending $25 and hope others will do so, as well. I’m e-mailing my left-wing friends in the hopes they, too, will see fit to make a small contribution. I wish Olbermann would put this fine man on his show for national exposure. It’s a scandal Mr. Tamm has to put up his own money to defend himself.

  7. Rich says:

    Good for Tamm. Also, good for the judges and Justice Department personnel who did not cave to Adolf Cheney and his storm troopers and to Bonehead (W).

  8. John canada says:

    Dear Thomas M Tamm,

    There are very few people in this world who show us your kind of courage and sacrifice.
    May you and your family always be safe and happy. You have watched over my family.
    Always john c.

  9. Mary Hartman says:

    My family has been spied on since July of 2001. We had threats now defined as “terrorist” in nature – all because a completely illegal, unethical, amoral and illegal Iran-Contra style dope and weapons operation was using a fake animal sanctuary as a front to launder money. The State of Minnesota, in conjunction with University of Minnesota researchers, and individuals in Mower County/Development Corporation of Austin wanted to use the funds to build a biotech research center and a whole lot more. If the US government had more courageous people like SA Tamm, we’d be a more healthy nation in every way. He’s a hero and I wish he had been able to effect a bigger change much sooner.

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