Thomas Tamm

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Thomas Tamm
Born 1952
Education Brown University (1974)
Georgetown University Law Center (1977)
Occupation Attorney
Employer U.S. Department of Justice
Known for Whistleblowing
Awards Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize[1]

Thomas Tamm (born 1952) is a former attorney in the United States Department of Justice Office of Intelligence Policy and Review during the period in 2004 when senior Justice officials fought against the widening scope of warrantless NSA surveillance that consisted of eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. He was an anonymous whistleblower to The New York Times, making the initial disclosure regarding the issue.


A 1974 graduate of Brown University, he is a former attorney in the United States Department of Justice Office of Intelligence Policy and Review.

A New York Times article on December 16, 2005[2][3] exposing the warrantless NSA surveillance for the first time was based on his initial tip-offs.

Over a year later in 2007, his house was raided by the FBI agents[4] on suspicion of his involvement in leaking the details, but it wasn't until 2008 — online on December 13[5] and then in the December 22 issue of Newsweek[5] — that his role was confirmed and he began speaking out publicly.[6]

On April 26, 2011, after a lengthy criminal investigation, the Justice Department announced that it would be dropping its investigation of Tamm and would not file charges.[7]

Related events in 2012[edit]

On August 22, 2012 The New York Times published an Op-doc in a forum of short documentaries produced by independent filmmakers, was produced by Laura Poitras and entitled, The Program.[8] It is related to the issues of concern to Tamm.

The documentary is preliminary work that will be included in a documentary planned for release in 2013 as the final part of the trilogy. The documentary is based on interviews with William Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency, who also became a whistleblower and described the details of the Stellar Wind project that he helped to design.

Binney states that the program he worked on had been designed for foreign espionage, but in 2001 was converted to spying on citizens in the United States, prompting concerns by him and others that the actions were illegal and unconstitutional, which led to disclosures.

The subject implies that the facility being built at Bluffdale, Utah is a facility that is part of that domestic surveillance, intended for storage of massive amounts of data collected from a broad range of communications that may be mined readily for intelligence without warrants.

On October 29, 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the constitutionality of the amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that were used to authorize the creation of such facilities and justify such actions. The determination of the court was not unanimous in James R. Clapper, Jr., Director Of National Intelligence, et al., Petitioners v. Amnesty International USA et al,[9] as Justice Breyer, filed a dissenting opinion, with whom Justice Ginsburg, Justice Sotomayor, and Justice Kagan joined.

"Congress enacted §1881a in 2008, as an amendment to the pre-existing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, 50 U. S. C. §1801 et seq. Before the amendment, the Act authorized the Government (acting within the United States) to monitor private electronic communications between the United States and a foreign country if (1) the Government’s purpose was, in significant part, to obtain foreign intelligence information (which includes information concerning a 'foreign power' or 'territory' related to our 'national defense' or 'security' or the 'conduct of ... foreign affairs').

"The addition of §1881a in 2008 changed this prior law in three important ways. First, it eliminated the requirement that the Government describe to the court each specific target and identify each facility at which its surveillance would be directed, thus permitting surveillance on a programmatic, not necessarily individualized, basis. §1881a(g). Second, it eliminated the requirement that a target be a 'foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.' Ibid. Third, it diminished the court’s authority to insist upon, and eliminated its authority to supervise, instance-specific privacy-intrusion minimization procedures (though the Government still must use court-approved general minimization procedures). §1881a(e)."

The case was dissented by the Justices based on that the argument proved standing and reasonably proved harm would be suffered.

"Plaintiff McKay, for example, points out that, when he communicates abroad about, or in the interests of, a client (e.g., a client accused of terrorism), he must 'make an assessment' whether his 'client’s interests would be compromised' should the Government 'acquire the communications.' App. to Pet. for Cert. 375a. If so, he must either forgo the communication or travel abroad. Id., at 371a–372a ('I have had to take measures to protect the confidentiality of information that I believe is particularly sensitive,' including 'travel that is both time-consuming and expensive')."


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize". 2009. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts". NYT's Risen & Lichtblau's December 16, 2005 "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts". Retrieved February 18, 2006.  via
  3. ^ Calame, Byron (August 13, 2006). "Eavesdropping and the Election: An Answer on the Question of Timing". The New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Looking For a Leaker". Newsweek. August 13, 2007. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Isikoff, Michael (2008-12-13). "The Fed Who Blew the Whistle: Is he a hero or a criminal?". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 2008-12-15. 
  6. ^ Goodman, Amy (16 April 2009). "Whistleblower Defends Decision to Leak Bush Domestic Surveillance Program & Calls for Prosecution of Gov’t Officials and Telecoms". Democracy Now!. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  7. ^ Asokan, Shyamantha (April 26, 2011). "No charges for man who leaked surveillance program". The Washington Post. 
  8. ^ Poitras, Laura, The Program, New York Times Op-Docs, August 22, 2012
  9. ^ Clapper v. Amnesty International USA ( ) 638 F. 3d 118, reversed and remanded, No. 11–1025. Argued October 29, 2012—Decided February 26, 2013

External links[edit]