Shadowproof - When the Justice Department ended its investigation into Thomas Tamm in 2011, the Justice Department whistleblower who revealed warrantless wiretapping said it was a relief that a “long ordeal” was now over. But it turns out the “ordeal” has entered a new chapter. He now faces ethics violations for blowing the whistle on illegal surveillance.
The District of Columbia Bar, a body with the power to discipline lawyers who violate ethical standards and rules of professional conduct, initiated disciplinary proceedings for Tamm for revealing “secrets” or “confidences” of his “client” to New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau.
It charged him with failing to refer information in his possession that “persons within the Department of Justice were violating their legal obligations” to the Attorney General.
The alleged ethics violations specifically stem from Tamm’s work in the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review in the Justice Department. It notes one of his duties was to apply to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for “warrants to conduct electronic surveillance in national security matters.” This information was “secret,” and Tamm was required to have a “special security clearance” to make applications.
When Tamm learned some of the surveillance applications were given special treatment, signed only by the Attorney General, and made only to the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, he became concerned. He learned this was part of something referred to as “The Program.” He asked about “The Program” and was informed it was “probably illegal.”
Even though Tamm “believed that an agency of the Department of Justice was involved in illegal conduct, he did not refer the matter to a higher authority within the department,” the complaint alleges.
Instead, the complaint says Tamm contacted a newspaper reporter in 2004 and told him he knew conduct he believed to be illegal was taking place. Tamm disclosed secret information that should have remained confidential.
Through the act of bringing these ethics violations against Tamm, the D.C. Bar is sending a message to all of its members in government that it is far more ethical to keep evidence of illegal government activities confidential than it is to expose it to the public so officials may be held accountable for their misconduct.
The D.C. Bar would have everyone believe that Tamm did not go through proper channels because he did not formally complain to any higher authority in the Justice Department. Yet, Tamm recognized those at the top were implicated in the criminal activity that was ongoing. He also went to someone working in Congress with his concerns, which is completely legitimate.