Wouldn’t It Be Nice if Obama Pardoned Thomas M. Tamm?

Newsweek, The Whistleblower Who Exposed Warrantless Wiretaps:

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.

That one call began a series of events that would engulf Washington—and upend Tamm's life. Eighteen months after he first disclosed what he knew, the Times reported that President George W. Bush had secretly authorized the NSA to intercept phone calls and e-mails of individuals inside the United States without judicial warrants. The drama followed a quiet, separate rebellion within the highest ranks of the Justice Department concerning the same program. (James Comey, then the deputy attorney general, together with FBI head Robert Mueller and several other senior Justice officials, threatened to resign.) President Bush condemned the leak to the Times as a “shameful act.” Federal agents launched a criminal investigation to determine the identity of the culprit.

The story of Tamm's phone call is an untold chapter in the history of the secret wars inside the Bush administration. The New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its story. The two reporters who worked on it each published books. Congress, after extensive debate, last summer passed a major new law to govern the way such surveillance is conducted. But Tamm—who was not the Times's only source, but played the key role in tipping off the paper—has not fared so well. The FBI has pursued him relentlessly for the past two and a half years. Agents have raided his house, hauled away personal possessions and grilled his wife, a teenage daughter and a grown son. More recently, they've been questioning Tamm's friends and associates about nearly every aspect of his life. Tamm has resisted pressure to plead to a felony for divulging classified information. But he is living under a pall, never sure if or when federal agents might arrest him.

Wouldn't it be great if President Obama were to pardon Mr. Tamm on his first day in office?

Dream on.

But at least it is possible that the Holder Justice Dept. will drop the investigation.

PS. Why is the GOP making its first attack on Obama via Holder? Partly it's because he has a vulnerability on the Rich pardon — opportunity. But the motive — from the people who waved through Gonzales without a demur — is that the Justice Dept is the office that is most likely to hurt them by turning over some rocks…

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17 Responses to Wouldn’t It Be Nice if Obama Pardoned Thomas M. Tamm?

  1. voter says:

    Mr Obama really did lose my vote ’cause of his sellout on FISA. So what, I guess. He didn’t need my vote.

    But I think his decision back last July foreshadows what his stance is going to be on Mr Tamm’s situation.

    Get a dog, Michael.

  2. Blago says:

    Better to pardon Blago so as to keep him from singing.

    I remember you blogged extensively about Bush and his Texas national guard “scandal”…but not a peep about Emmanuel and Obama connections to Blago?!

    What a joke.

  3. michael says:

    Is there even a shred of evidence yet that anyone working for Obama did anything illegal or unethical? If so please provide a link.

    All I’ve read so far is in fact to the contrary: that Blago was moaning because the Obama people wouldn’t offer him anything of value. (All they offered was “appreciation”. No cash.)

    It is indeed the case that we don’t at present have all the facts — the Obama people promise, for example, to report an all their contacts (and we know there were some), and that report isn’t out yet. [And if it doesn’t come out this week, I think people will have grounds to complain.] But as yet we have nothing at all to suggest these contacts were in any way underhanded.

    On the other hand, in the Bush case there was a strong (circumstantial) case that his discharge was phonied up in some way. And the Bush administration never put those doubts to rest by providing the relevant paperwork — on the contrary key parts have never been seen.

    So I fail to see the parallelism. If Emmanuel spoke to Blago five times, so what? The issue is entirely what was said, and so far neither the indictment nor Blago’s quoted words suggest it was anything bad.

    But I’m sure someone here will enlighten me. And we’ll know more soon, I’d guess.

  4. Patrick (G) says:

    The real joke would be fools who don’t know squat about Illinois politics pretending that they smell a scandal.

    Emmanuel succeeded Blagojevich for his congressional seat, Obama was five years into his state senate seat when Blagojevich first became governor, and Obama successfully ran for the U.S. senate shortly thereafter.

    When exactly was there opportunity for co-option, illicit cooperation, or corruption at any point in time in their political careers?

  5. joe says:

    … the indictment….

    Michael,

    There are a few questions about the timing on when this went public.

    From the New York Times transcript of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s news briefing about the investigation into Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois:

    MR. FITZGERALD: First of all, there’s not an indictment, realize. It’s a complaint. So I don’t want people to understand it’s an indictment. We filed a criminal complaint.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Fwiw, based on your original post, I’d have thought Mr. Blagojevitch was off-topic in this thread. I was reserving my reaction for when and if you decided to make a topical post. But now you’ve opened it up by your comment here.

  6. michael says:

    Your correction that this is just a complaint is well taken. Thank you.

    Your comment about topic drift is also apt. But is the better plan to just ignore the substance of this sort of nonsense?

    I have as yet nothing interesting to say on this topic, which is why I haven’t done a post on it. Like the rest of the world, I presume Fitzgerald rushed the complaint, without even waiting for a grand jury, to head off what he saw as a likely crime about to happen: the selling of a Senate seat. So far, that doesn’t appear to have been an obviously wrong judgment, does it?

  7. AnneJ says:

    One can help Mr Mann by contributing to his defense fund.

  8. joe says:

    So far, that doesn’t appear to have been an obviously wrong judgment, does it?

    Let me put this way: It appears somewhat out of the ordinary.

    Ordinarily, one would expect that the United States would wish to be able to prove that something of value changed hands. Then, among other things, there’d be no questions about any overt act.

    Now, a high-profile political corruption case like this is not necessarily “ordinary”. But Mr. Obama’s opposition is casting it in the ordinary post-Watergate master narrative. Some people are calling Mr. Obama a “liar”, and others are merely using more polite language.

    Meanwhile, according to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Illinois government is paralyzed.

    So, while the government’s timing was not “obviously wrong” neither was it obviously right. And there are just a few questions about the degree to which we are discussing Mr. Fitzgerald’s judgement versus Mr. Mukasey’s judgement, or the judgement of others in Washington, D.C.

  9. michael says:

    I agree that if there was no attempt to get a job for himself or his wife, or personal funds, then there’s a question here as to the Governor’s legal culpability. (But wasn’t there more than some hint of that?)

    In other words, I agree that if the sole ‘extortion’ was the demand for fairly traditional political favors — including the promise to raise money for a future campaign — there’s no legal problem, for all that it looks sleazy. If the promise was to directly donate money to a future campaign, I think there’s a case to be made that there’s an issue. But if it was an attempt to secure jobs or money directly, then I think Fitzgerald’s actions look reasonable.

    None of which, so far, has anything to do with Obama or his people….

  10. Honest Abe says:

    “there’s no legal problem, for all that it looks sleazy”

    I will never understand the progressive movement. You blogged on and on about Bush and the national guard over irrelevant events 30 years prior. And yet when bold, naked corruption in government stares you in the face and shows you what Chicago politics (of which Obama was a part) is all about, you shrug your shoulders as if to say “boys will be boys”. And now Chicago is in the White House, and you don’t care to be vigilant.

    The Obama cult ignored Rezko, Wright, Ayers. The Obama cult is told the Clintonistas are change and Emmanuel is Change. The Obama cult is told that Obama rose to the pinnacle of Chicago politics by being squeaky clean just like good ‘ole Honest Abe.

    Yeah, right.

  11. adam says:

    It’s pretty hilarious that you anti-obama types were so sure that rezko was going to “sing” or that there was some damning piece of evidence that was just about to surface in October. Now it’s Blago who is about to sing. Keep it up for another 4 years.

    You can pretend chicago is different than miami, but Florida is at the top of the convicted politicians list.
    http://eyeonmiami.blogspot.com/2008/12/florida-is-number-one-in-countryfor.html

  12. LACJ says:

    Ha good one Adam. This thread is a troll fest. Get a dog!!

    Obama lost my vote because he caved on FISA. So I voted for Jack Black!! Blargh!!

  13. LACJ says:

    Oh, sorry, I forgot the best part:

    ‘The Progressive movement is duplicitous because it ignores sleaze when it wants to, and then when forced to acknowledge the sleaze claims that the law doesn’t specifically make ‘fairly typical political favors’ criminal.’

    Because of course, some people have seemingly forgotten than criminal conduct must be specifically enumerated by the state for criminal measures to attach. I might not have written that well, but my meaning is that apparently pointing out that certain conduct is not criminal suddenly makes you into a weakling. Because Republicans just throw who they want in jail by presidential fiat rather than figure out what is or is not *actually* illegal.

    Every time a conservative talks about justice or fairness just remember what they supported in George W. Bush. They are no friends of justice or liberty. Only of power.

  14. Casper says:

    Ooops. Looks like Emmanuel spoke with Blago after all, and somebody in Obama’s camp was less than honest about that. Ooops. So much for transparency promised by change.gov. But keep worshiping, and not asking questions.

  15. Honest Abe says:

    “If Emmanuel spoke to Blago five times, so what?”

    Just as the “internal” report came out today:
    “Emanuel left for a long-planned family vacation in Africa on Tuesday and was not available for comment.”

    Come on progressives, you bitched and moaned every time Bush took a vacation. Obama is playing golf in Hawaii while the auto industry picks our pocket, his top advisor is running for the hills so this Blago scandal will get brushed under the rug as all scandals do for the Clintonistas.

    “So what”, indeed.

  16. You blogged on and on about Bush and the national guard over irrelevant events 30 years prior. And yet when bold, naked corruption in government stares you in the face and shows you what Chicago politics (of which Obama was a part) is all about, you shrug your shoulders as if to say “boys will be boys”.

  17. Mr. Tamm is a true patriot. He’s an American hero for exposing these filthy Republican pigs! Come on just several words of pardon.

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