Wiretapping leak probe dropped

April 27, 2011


The Justice Department has dropped its long-running criminal investigation of a lawyer who publicly admitted leaking information about President George W. Bush’s top-secret warrantless wiretapping program to The New York Times — disclosures that Bush vehemently denounced as a breach of national security. They also stoked a congressional debate about whether the government had overstepped its authority as it scrambled to respond to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The decision not to prosecute former Justice Department lawyer Thomas Tamm means it is unlikely that anyone will ever be charged for the disclosures that led to the Times’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story in December 2005 revealing that, after the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush ordered the interception of certain phone calls and email messages into and out of the U.S. without a warrant — a move many lawyers contend violated the 1978 law governing intelligence-related wiretaps.

The petering out of the warrantless wiretapping leak investigation amounts to a low-profile and ambiguous conclusion to an episode that dominated the headlines in the second half of the Bush administration. While Washington is immersed in the latest round of Wikileaks revelations and the investigation into new disclosures of a trove of government secrets, the dropped wiretapping investigation amounts to the final chapter of the most significant leak of the Bush era.

The Justice Department would not discuss the current status of the probe, which began in late 2005, after the Times story was published, with a formal leak complaint from the National Security Agency. However, Tamm’s attorney, Paul Kemp, told POLITICO he and his client were informed “seven or eight months ago” that the investigation into Tamm was over.

The information was relayed during a meeting with the prosecutor handling the case, William Welch, Kemp said. The Justice Department recently issued Tamm a letter confirming that the probe had concluded, the defense attorney said.

Prosecutors also appear to have lost interest in Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency official who also publicly acknowledged being a source for the Times on the warrantless wiretapping story. An attorney for Tice, Joshua Dratel, said it has been several years since prosecutors contacted him about the investigation.

To read more, visit: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/53718.html#ixzz1KfBDoTs2


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