Legal Ethics

Former Justice Department lawyer is censured for telling journalist about wiretap program

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A former Justice Department lawyer has been censured for telling a New York Times reporter about the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretap program.

The lawyer, Thomas Tamm, was censured (PDF) on Thursday, report the National Law Journal (sub. req.) and the Legal Profession Blog. Tamm had agreed to accept the censure by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

Mitigating factors included Tamm’s cooperation with ethics authorities, his intent to further compliance with the law by disclosing the information.

Tamm had told a reporter about the program in a 2004 call from a pay phone. He suspected the program, used to tap overseas phone calls and emails of terrorism suspects, had illegally bypassed the special intelligence court.

Tamm is currently a state public defender in Maryland. One of his lawyers, Paul Kemp, told the National Law Journal that the lawyers were “just glad this nightmare is over for him and his family. … The best news is that it’s over, and Tom is a hero for having disclosed what he did in the fashion in which he did it.”

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