The controversy over President Bush's warrantless surveillance program took another surprise turn last week when a team of FBI 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. The agents seized Tamm's desktop computer, two of his children's laptops and a cache of personal files. Tamm and his lawyer, Paul Kemp, declined any comment. So did the FBI. But 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 raid appears to be the first significant development in the probe since The New York Times reported in December 2005 that Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. residents without court warrants. (At the time, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said of the leak: "This is really hurting national security; this has really hurt our country.")
A veteran federal prosecutor who left DOJ last year, Tamm worked at OIPR during a critical period in 2004 when senior Justice officials first strongly objected to the surveillance program. Those protests led to a crisis that March when, according to recent Senate testimony, then A.G. John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller and others threatened to resign, prompting Bush to scale the program back. Tamm, said one of the legal sources, had shared concerns about he program's legality, but it was unclear whether he actively participated in the internal DOJ protest.
The FBI raid on Tamm's home comes when Gonzales himself is facing criticism for allegedly misleading Congress by denying there had been "serious disagreement" within Justice about the surveillance program. The A.G. last week apologized for "creating confusion," but Senate Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy said he is weighing asking Justice's inspector general to review Gonzales's testimony.
The raid also came while the White House and Congress were battling over expanding NSA wiretapping authority in order to plug purported "surveillance gaps." James X. Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology said the raid was "amazing" and shows the administration's misplaced priorities: using FBI agents to track down leakers instead of processing intel warrants to close the gaps. A Justice spokesman declined to comment.