DOJ To Prosecute New York Times Over NSA Story?

In a Newsweek exclusive three week ago, former Justice Department official Thomas Tamm revealed his role in helping the New York Times make public Pr

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In a Newsweek exclusive three week ago, former Justice Department official Thomas Tamm revealed his role in helping the New York Times make public President Bush's program of illegal domestic surveillance. Now Salon's Glenn Greenwald has details on the DOJ's efforts to punish the whistleblower. And as it turns out (and as I suggested back in 2007), the Bush administration's ultimate target may be the New York Times itself.

As Greenwald spells out today, the Justice Department investigation is not pursuing the White House cabal behind the violation of FISA's prohibitions on warrantless eavesdropping of American citizens, but instead those who revealed it. Tamm, whose life has been turned upside-down since the FBI raided his home in August 2007, will likely be subpoenaed to testify what he knows about James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, the Times reporters who broke the story in December 2005.

That's the message in a letter sent to Tamm's attorney Paul Kemp by Steve Tyrrell of the DOJ's fraud section. As Greenwald described it:

The letter begins by announcing that the DOJ and FBI are "presently investigating the unauthorized disclosure of classified information regarding the Presidentially-authorized NSA program…(hereinafter, 'The Terrorist Surveillance Program')." It then references the Newsweek article and "ask[s] whether [Tamm] is willing to reconsider his prior refusal to speak with agents of the FBI and/or to testify before the Grand Jury regarding his knowledge of and/or participation in the disclosure of TSP-related information to [James] Risen, Mr. Lichtblau and others." It demands an answer from Tamm by January 9 -- 11 days before Obama is to be inaugurated -- and then threateningly warns: "if I do not hear from you by that date, I will assume that Mr. Tamm is not interested in submitting to a voluntary interview or testifying before the Grand Jury": an obvious threat that he may be subpoenaed and compelled to do so.

The implication - that Lichtblau and Risen are in the Justice Department's crosshairs - would represent a conservative dream come true. Many in the Bush administration and its amen corner have been clamoring for the prosecution of the New York Times ever since the President's lawbreaking came to light. (For more background, Perrspectives has the details.)

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