My wife was adamant that I listen to this interview between Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business and former Qwest CEO, Joe Nacchio. She thought it was the most explosive story about the NSA this year. She is right and I think the NSA should be worried. Mr. Nacchio looks like he is getting his ducks in a row to publish a book that will question the practices of the NSA for over a decade. This has to be a very inconvenient time for a book about alleged illegal NSA practices. In the interview I think that he made three good arguments.
- The NSA started illegal surveillance of American citizens prior to 2001.
- The NSA engaged in a war against Qwest that was not wise and definitely sounds like it was not in the best interest of the American people or the intelligence gathering effort.
- As a result of this war between Qwest and the NSA, he did not get a fair trial and was unduly punished for a crime he did not commit.
This is not a new story. The first reference I found on the Internet to this story is a Electronic Frontier Foundation article in 2007, Qwest CEO: NSA Punished Qwest for Refusing to Participate in Illegal Surveillance–Pre-9/11! An interesting comment made by Mr. Nacchio had to be the one he made about retroactive telephone company immunity legislation in 2007. Here is a quote from Wikipedia on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act(FISA) history.
At the same time, the Senate Intelligence Committee reportedly reached a compromise with the White House on a different proposal that would give telephone carriers legal immunity for any role they played in the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping program approved by President Bush after the Sep 11 terrorist attacks.
I am guessing but this looks like the telephone companies thought their activities prior to 2007 were probably illegal and they wanted a get out of jail free card from the government. They were probably afraid of getting the Nacchio treatment. This looks like a lousy way to run an intelligence operation. I doubt the NSA had the hearts and souls of the telephone companies on their side when the telephone companies’ most important issue appears to be retroactive immunity. It implies a degree of incompetence or corruption in the NSA. So now we get to the big question, how do we reform the NSA? If a good NSA exists and how do we get there? Edward Snowden has his ideas on how to accomplish this. I have a different idea. As a former Qwest stock holder I have to wonder whether my losses were because of bad luck or illegal activities by the NSA. Here is a strange thought. If Mr. Nacchio is successful in his argument that he failed to get a fair trial because of retribution by the NSA then how long do you think it will take before some aspiring lawyer files a class action suit against the NSA for Qwest stock market losses caused by the NSA vendetta. I suspect the NSA will be more willing to look at reform as we get closer to the Presidential election and it looks like the public flogging will go on forever. Of course, that would require that the NSA turn over a new leaf and negotiate in good faith. Good luck with that!