Whistleblower says war on terror doesn’t justify warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens

Oct 7, 2013

Thomas Tamm's career as an attorney with the Department of Justice's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review came to an end during the Bush Administration, after Tamm leaked information to the New York Times that the government was eavesdropping on American citizens without seeking a warrant. The Times story won a Pulitzer prize.

Former Department of Justice attorney Thomas Tamm
Credit Joe Newman

"Our rules and our constitution are strong enough to fight terrorism; we don't have to compromise our values to do that."

Tamm's anonymous revelation to the Times became public when he described what he believes to be illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of American citizens to Newsweek magazine. Tamm's whistleblowing was investigated by the government, but they eventually dropped the investigation and never charged him with anything. Meanwhile, Tamm lost his job and went into debt because of his legal expenses.
    Tamm was in Missoula recently to speak about his case to University of Montana law students. Tamm's family has close ties to Montana and the law school; his uncle Edward was born in Butte and became a respected federal judge. The Jones-Tamm lecture series at UM is named after him.   
    In this feature interview, Thomas Tamm talks with News Director Sally Mauk about why he decided to leak the information about the warrantless surveillance to the press. He says it's something he thought about for a long time.