Former Department of Justice lawyer Thomas Tamm, who worked in the department's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) and brought attention to the illegal National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless electronic surveillance program code named "Stellar Wind," remains under investigation by the Eric Holder Justice Department for having the fortitude to expose the closely-guarded program to public light.
Tamm was one of only a handful of Justice, FBI, NSA, CIA, government contractor, and military personnel who exposed illegal activities on the part of the George W. Bush administration and paid the price by being subjected to a political vendetta carried out by Bush and Cheney operatives. WMR has reported on many of these unsung heroes who once served and still serve inside the intelligence and law enforcement communities.
In 2007, Tamm's home in Potomac, Maryland was raided by zealous FBI agents who suspected him of leaking details of the so-called "Terrorist Surveillance Program" (TSP) to journalists. Tamm tried to inform Congress about the illegal program but was rebuffed by, among others, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Representative John Conyers (D-MI).
At the time of its inception after 9/11, the TSP or as NSA and the Oval Office referred to it, "Stellar Wind," was so classified that only the Attorney General and one other person in the Justice Department knew about it. The TSP totally bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants that the OIPR prepared for approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). U.S. Judge James Robertson was so incensed about the bypassing of the FISC, he resigned from it in protest on December 20, 2005. U.S. Judge Royce Lamberth, nominated by President Ronald Reagan and who served as Presiding Judge of the FISC until 2002, was also adamantly opposed to TSP and its systematic bypassing of his court.
The Bush administration, notably Vice President Dick Cheney's chief counsel, David Addington, argued that the FISC was an impediment in what was referred to as "ticking time bomb" cases, those investigations that required immediate and ongoing authority to wiretap. However, there is a "ticking time bomb" clause in the FISA that can bypass the FISC with the authorization of the Attorney General.
The Cheney and Addington argument was largely a ruse in order to allow them and their cohorts in the administration to conduct "fishing expeditions" aimed not at terrorists or potential terrorists but a political "enemies list" drawn up by the Bush White House.
Tamm was also the first person within Justice who corroborated what NSA personnel were reporting about the agency conducting illegal data mining. One of those individuals was NSA employee Russell Tice, who was also subjected to an FBI investigation and government harassment.
Although the govenrment employees who brought attention to the high-level criminality involving the TSP/Stellar Wind were and, in some cases like that of Tamm, are still being investigated, no criminal investigations were brought against the telecommunications companies that participated in the criminal conspiracy to spy on Americans illegally. In fact, Congress gave the telecommunications firms immunity from lawsuits and prosecution as a result of a deal worked out with the Bush administration. One of those senators who voted for the immunity deal is Barack Obama.
After the FBI conducted interviews of all OIPR employees in their quest for the leaker, on August 1, 2007, 12 government vehicles pulled in front of Tamm's home in Potomac, Maryland. Eighteen armed federal agents wearing body armor stormed into Tamm's home while his wife was cooking breakfast. Tamm was removed from his home by the agents who spent seven hours going through his and his family's property. The FBI agents even asked Tamm if there were any "secret rooms" in his house. They also inquired about any weapons in the house and whether he had been visited at home by reporters from The New York Times.
The agents tore through every room, awakening Tamm's son and daughter. The agents seized all the lap top computers, including those of Tamm's children, and a 10-year old lap top. Also seized were the Tamm family's Christmas card list and a calendar with doctors appointments.
After two days, Tamm was offered a deal that he could plead guilty to a felony in return for his testifying against journalists, including the New York Times'James Risen, and their sources at the NSA. Three days later Michael Isikoff of Newsweekphoned Tamm -- someone had leaked information about the FBI raid to Isikoff. Tamm's identity as a source about the TSP was revealed by Isikoff in the December 22, 2008, issue of Newsweek.
Tamm is no stranger to the FBI. His father was a career FBI agent and Tamm watched the 1961 inauguration of President John F. Kennedy from the Pennsylvania Avenue office window of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. However, Tamm's father always lamented the fact that the FBI, under Hoover, wiretapped civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King.
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) member Jane Harman (D-CA) was aware of the existence of the illegal program but recently criticized it when it was revealed that her agreement with Israeli intelligence to apply pressure on the Justice Department to drop their espionage case against two American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbyists in return for AIPAC's support in making her the chairman of HPSCI was the subject of electronic eavesdropping. The surveillance may have involved both TSP monitoring and that authorized by a legal FISC warrant.
The lead FBI agent who has been assigned since 2005 to investigate Tamm is Jason Lawless.
The Obama administration owes it to the American people and to those government public servants who brought attention to impeachable and prosecutable high crimes and misdemeanors by Bush administration officials, including Bush and Cheney, to immediately drop the "witch hunt" against those who served the public interest and upheld the Constitution of the United States to which they took an oath to protect against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Individuals like Bush, Cheney, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, Addington, and John Bolton showed themselves to be domestic enemies of the Constitution.