Democracy Now! Interviews Ridenhour Prize Winners
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    • Matthew Hoh, the 2010 recipient of the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, speaks with an Afghan villager while a soldier looks on

On April 28, Democracy Now! interviewed Thomas Tamm about the Department of Justice dropping its years-long criminal investigation of him. Tamm, the 2009 recipient of The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, was a former Justice Department lawyer who exposed the existence of a secret warrantless wiretapping program to The New York Times.

This happy news was first revealed, informally, at a reception for Ridenhour prize recipients in Washington, DC, and was mentioned again at the awards ceremony on April 13. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

AMY GOODMAN: And why, Thomas Tamm, was this so important to you? Why was it so critical that you would risk your career in doing this?

THOMAS TAMM: Well, the oath that I took was to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States against enemies foreign and domestic. And, you know, it’s my belief that we are a stronger country because of our Constitution and because of our democratic institutions, like the courts and the Congress, as well as the presidency. And I honestly thought I had an ethical obligation to talk to somebody about what I thought was an illegal abuse of executive authority. In fact, when I was working at the Department of Justice in OIPR, my boss said that if you don’t want to sign one of these affidavits, if you’re afraid to put your name on these affidavits, then he would sign his name. And that just sent up a red flag... And so, I really thought it was my duty.

After expressing relief that he no longer has to live "under that cloud" of prosecution, Tamm added: "And for myself, I think the real story here is that we don’t know the number of Americans whose phones were tapped. We don’t know what happened with that information. And I think those people are entitled to know that their information was seized. And I think people ought to be prosecuted for violating the law."

In selecting Thomas Tamm as the recipient of the 2009 Prize for Truth-Telling, the judges said that Tamm "imperiled his own future liberty to preserve the liberties of all Americans." We are all glad that his liberty is no longer in peril.

See Tamm's interview below.


A few days later, on May 2, after the news broke of the killing of Osama bin Laden, Amy Goodman interviewed yet another recipient of The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, the 2010 winner Matthew Hoh. Hoh was the State Department official who resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan. At a time when Afghanistan was still looked at as the "good war," Hoh came forward, very publicly and at great risk, to question the war's fundamental rationale.

MATTHEW HOH: What I think this means for the United States is, this gives closure on 9/11. Ten years after that horrible event, we finally have some degree of closure. We’ve the bogeyman, if you will, who caused all this. So, I think this gives the American public closure on 9/11. And what that—what I hope that translates into is provides some backbone for members of Congress who do not want to engage on the war in Afghanistan. I think everybody should be asking themselves today in the United States, if Osama bin Laden was hiding in an upscale villa an hour or two drive north, northeast of Islamabad, then why did we put 50,000 troops in Afghanistan over the last two years? I think we have to have a real serious conversation on where our war on terror has taken this country, and I think we need to reflect on the real threat... Osama bin Laden was more of a figurehead or a spiritual leader than any kind of operational leader. And if we have—so we need to understand al-Qaeda as they exist, as some form of a syndicate that operates through individuals and small cells worldwide that won’t be affected by putting hundreds of thousands of foreign troops in Afghanistan, but is affected by good intelligence work, good police work, and good work by our Special Operations forces in conjunction with foreign governments. So I think this is a very good time for some real somber and rational reflection on the last 10 years.

See the entire interview below.

Tags: 9/11, abottabad, afghanistan, al qaeda, department of justice, islamabad, matthew hoh, new york times, osama bin laden, ridenhour prizes, thomas tamm, warrantless wiretapping

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