This week’s cover story in Newsweek focuses on Thomas M. Tamm, a former Justice Department lawyer in its Office of Intelligence Policy and Review. Tamm blew the whistle on the National Security Agency’s illegal wiretapping on U.S. citizens. As his reward for heroically exposing this illegal program, Tamm could be charged with violating national security and intelligence laws and jailed for up to 10 years.
Tamm is currently under investigation by the FBI for reporting NSA’s illegal actions to the New York Times. Unfortunately, Tamm had no other option. He was repeatedly silenced by his supervisors. There was no place for him to report the criminal activities of the government’s highest ranking employees, and there are no whistleblower protections for national security and intelligence employees who suffer retaliation.
President-Elect Obama and Attorney General nominee Eric Holder will be forced to decide whether to prosecute Tamm. Although both have publicly condemned the warantless wiretapping program as outside the bounds of the law, there has been a rise in the criminal prosecution of whistleblowers in recent years. This disturbing trend includes the Justice Department’s prosecution of Richard Convertino, who blew the whistle to Congress on the failure of the Bush administration to prosecute terrorists after 9/11.
It is time to send a message to those who retaliate and threaten whistleblowers, and put an end to the government’s use of "national security" as a justification to break the law.
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