Qwest for the truth

CEO Nacchio of Qwest has a write up in WAPO:

A former Qwest Communications International executive, appealing a conviction for insider trading, has alleged that the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency program that the company thought might be illegal.

Former chief executive Joseph P. Nacchio, convicted in April of 19 counts of insider trading, said the NSA approached Qwest more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to court documents unsealed in Denver this week.
Details about the alleged NSA program have been redacted.

The newly released court documents say that, on Feb. 27, 2001, Nacchio and James Payne, then Qwest’s senior vice president of government systems, met with NSA officials at Fort Meade, expecting to discuss “Groundbreaker,” a project to outsource the NSA’s non-mission-critical systems.

The men came out of the meeting “with optimism about the prospect for 2001 revenue from NSA,” according to an April 9, 2007, court filing by Nacchio’s lawyers that was disclosed this week.

But the filing also claims that Nacchio “refused” to participate in some unidentified program or activity because it was possibly illegal and that the NSA later “expressed disappointment” about Qwest’s decision.

“Nacchio said it was a legal issue and that they could not do something that their general counsel told them not to do. . . . Nacchio projected that he might do it if they could find a way to do it legally,” the filing said.

Mike German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the documents show “that there is more to this story about the government’s relationship with the telecoms than what the administration has admitted to.”

Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said: “It’s inappropriate for the government to be awarding a contract conditioned upon an agreement to an illegal program. That truly is what’s going on here.”

The foundation has sued AT&T, charging that it violated privacy laws by cooperating with the government’s warrantless surveillance program.

Thinking about the issue raises several possiblities for me if reasonably true:

1. Efforts against terrorism were already underway before 9/11 and have come to light to bolster the Administration’s reputation.

2. The wiretapping is part of a different plan not yet revealed and was begun coincidentally with the terrorist threat as an extra incentive or cover.

3. It takes a crook to catch a crook.

4. Secret programs can be coercion, collusion, or a way to gain market share without the opportunity costs normally associated with new programs.

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