Monday, August 06, 2007

The Opinionator

August 6, 2007, 1:59 pm
And They Have a Warrant This Time
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: , ,

While President Bush’s signing of the new wiretap law is the big news on the national security front, a lesser but related story is gaining a bit of attention on the Web.

Newsweek was first with the news: “The controversy over President Bush’s warrantless surveillance program took another surprise turn last week when a team of F.B.I. agents, armed with a classified search warrant, raided the suburban Washington home of a former Justice Department lawyer. The lawyer, Thomas M. Tamm, previously worked in Justice’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) ­ the supersecret unit that oversees surveillance of terrorist and espionage targets … two legal sources who asked not to be identified talking about an ongoing case told Newsweek the raid was related to a Justice criminal probe into who leaked details of the warrantless eavesdropping program to the news media.”

The apparent recipients of those leaks, which occurred shortly before the 2004 election, were two New York Times reporters, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, although their article about the eavesdropping program was not published until late in 2005. So, who is Mr. Tamm, and why does this matter?

The Xsociate at All Spin Zone finds the timing suspicious:

Now I would have to agree with those who say this raid is about intimidating would be whistleblowers. … But I wonder if this week’s rush to amend FISA had more to do with the particulars of this incident than anything else. Consider that to prosecute any leakers, the administration would have to admit what they were doing for several years was in contravention of FISA. But now that they have what amounts to tacit approval of that activity from Congress, it will make prosecuting the squealers somewhat easier.
Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report jumps in with a blunt observation. “First, whoever leaked word of the warrantless domestic surveillance,” he writes, “exposed an administration program that was against the law.” Benen continues:

Shining the light on illegalities shouldn’t be punished; it should be rewarded … Second, and just as importantly, there’s some irony in Bush’s Justice Department seeking to criminalize leaks ­ we are, after all, talking about a White House that leaks like a sieve, especially when it comes to national security. Just last week, the Bush gang was dishing to the NYT new details (that hadn’t even been disclosed to Congress) about the administration’s surveillance activities. Because the leak was intended to help defend Alberto Gonzales from perjury charges, the White House didn’t complain.
On the other hand, Mike “Gamecock” Devine at RedState, finds the report of the raid, well, encouraging. He writes: “This is huge news for those of us that have bemoaned the lack of any tangible evidence that the President was fighting back against the shadow liberal government in Washington beaurocracies that are willing for Americans to die at the hands of terrorists if it advances their political agenda, i.e. destroying Bush and getting a liberal appeaser back in the White House.”

Gabriel Schoenfeld at Commentary feels that the Tamm may not be the only one to feel the heat:

The New York Times had also broken the black-letter law. It had breached the provisions of Section 798 of Title 18, which make it a crime to publish classified information concerning the interception of communications intelligence. With the investigation making progress, the possibility remains that even if The New York Times is not indicted, its reporters­ James Risen and Eric Lichtblau ­might be called before the grand jury and asked to confirm under oath that Tamm, or some other suspect, was their source. That is what happened to a whole battalion of journalists in the investigation of Scooter Libby in the Valerie Plame fiasco. If Risen and Lichtblau promised their source confidentiality, they might choose not to testify. That would potentially place them, like Judith Miller in the Libby investigation, in contempt of court and even land them in prison.
And P.J. Gladnick at NewsBusters gleefully posits that comments apparently posted by Tamm on liberal Web sites may have led to his unmasking. He writes:

If it turns out that Thomas M. Tamm is the FISA leaker, then a good case could be made that … postings on the Web might have been his undoing. Ironically this would not be the first time a high government official illegally releasing top secret information revealed himself via web postings. Robert Hannsen, the F.B.I. agent convicted of selling secrets to the Soviet Union and Russia, raised suspicions about himself when he posted explicit information about his sex life on Internet chat rooms. Perhaps this FISA leak case will be the second time that Web postings would have been the undoing of a government official illegally releasing top secret information.
Speculation, to be sure. But as all of us who ply a trade on the Web know, even if the keyboard is mightier than the sword, it still cuts both ways.

----

August 6, 2007, 9:06 am
So What?
By Tobin Harshaw
Tags: ,

While Hendrick Hertzberg finds the appeal of nostalgia at YearlyKos, other liberals simply find the deja vu repellent. “YearlyKos will add nothing to a much needed debate on the future direction of our country,” insists Nancy (The Hankster) Hanks. “The time for insurgence in the DP is over. Without a relationship to independent voters — left, center and right — YearlyKos will remain safely within the boundaries of the very partisan political culture that is responsible for the bad policy we are living with right now.”

The freelance journalist Marc Cooper shows a little outrage. “Showing up to pander to the online activists (whatever that means) does not in itself make a revolution, nor necessarily even denote much of a shift of political gravity within the Democratic Party,” he writes on his blog. “That sort of paradigm shift requires more than a stiffening of the will of the Democrats. It also means that liberal blogs (especially after the Dems win the coming election) are going to have to show some real independence and not settle for being mere transmission belts of the party ‘communications’ apparatus.”

1 Comments:

Blogger N. Hanks said...

Tobin - thanks so much for your link to The Hankster! I have linked Behind The Times and Marc Cooper's piece on my blog and will keep an eye on your posts. It's going to be a long (and exciting) campaign -- hopefully our paths will cross again...
Nancy

6:59 PM  

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