'A Ton More People Were Wiretapped Than We've Been Led to Believe': FBI Whistleblower Thomas Tamm
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Also, with all of the information coming out about the torture and the extraordinary renditions, I thought it was important for people to know that there were people in the government that felt that what was being done in our name was illegal.
LS: What exactly are the accusations against you?
TT: The day after the [FBI] search -- or the following week, Monday or Tuesday -- I was in my attorney's office; he had spoken with the lead prosecutor, and they offered me a plea of a felony of disclosing classified documents, essentially.
Which meant that I would be exposed to jail -- probably would go to jail. And they wanted my cooperation. I said, "Cooperation? Who am I going to testify against?" I said, "You guys know what the New York Times reporters published."
It seemed weird to me to think that they wanted a former Department of Justice employee to testify against people who have First Amendment privileges.
Now [it turns out] that there were leaks from the NSA, so perhaps that's what they were looking for. But during the course of the ongoing investigation, we informed them I had no idea who else had talked about anything.
I couldn't have helped them in any way -- and I wouldn't have wanted to help them in any way. But the statute that they wanted me to plead guilty to -- part of the statute says there was actual damage to national security -- and I just didn't think that they could prove that.
LS: It's interesting, the point you make about the fact that it's public knowledge. It's one thing that's a little confounding about the Obama administration's recent use of the state secrets privilege to block recent lawsuits against the NSA. Like with rendition and torture, are these things really secret anymore? How can the Department of Justice say that on national-security grounds we can't allow these lawsuits to go forward?
TT: Well, it is a reason for concern I think. I mean -- as a matter of policy -- if you are actually in litigation for the Department of Justice, you can't take one position before a judge one week and then because the administration changes, come in and take the opposite position.
So I think, and I hope, kind of with fingers crossed, that that's part of what is influencing the Obama administration, that they are not going to change those policies that are already in the pipeline, but that maybe they will examine them and announce new policies.
I think there's also the possibility that Obama doesn't have all of his staff. You know, they haven't been approved by the Senate -- Dawn Johnsen, who has been nominated to be the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, still is being held up by the Senate -- so I think that may be part of it.
But what really concerns me is that we still don't know the truth. We do not know what they did. We don't need to know how they did it, but I think we need to know what was done and what their legal justification was.
That's something I intend to say at the Ridenhour prize ceremony -- that we still really need to find out what was done.
You get into the question of whether you're gong prosecute somebody or hold them accountable for breaking the law. It seems to me that, first of all, you investigate something and find out what was done -- and then you make a decision as to whether they acted in good faith or whether, from a policy standpoint, you don't want to go forward.