The National Security Agency was conducting massive unconstitutional surveillance efforts before the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, according to a top telecom executive.
Joe Nacchio, the former CEO of the defunct telecom Qwest, made the allegations along with his lawyers in a federal court in Denver in 2007. NSA officials asked Qwest to participate in a warrantless wiretapping program that the telecom’s lawyers believed was illegal in February 2001, six months before Sept. 11, court transcripts reveal. The court transcripts were the basis of a Denver Post article published on Oct. 21, 2007.
The transcripts were of Nacchio’s trial for insider trading, which ended up revealing a lot more. At the trial, Nacchio maintained that the federal government punished his company for not participating in the surveillance program by not rewarding it secret federal contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. And we now know, as we have reported previously, that federal agencies are now amassing databases that rival even the NSA’s.
Surveillance Before Sept. 11
Qwest later went bankrupt, and Nacchio was convicted of insider trading for his dealings in its stock and sentenced to four years in federal prison. Nacchio was released from prison earlier this year and is currently in house arrest.
The transcripts indicate that Qwest worked closely with the NSA and was pressured to participate in a program called Pioneer Groundbreaker, which was designed to create a data center that would allow the NSA to tap into phone calls, fax machines, and internet activities. All before September 11th, 2001.
This sounds a lot like the Prism program exposed by Edward Snowden in June.
Some observers think that Nacchio will divulge more of what he knows when he is released from house arrest on Sept. 21, 2013. If he does, it could be real interesting and shed more light on the spying.
Nacchio’s allegations, in particular, call the government’s assertions that surveillance is directed against terrorists and necessary to protect us from terrorism into serious question. Surveillance was apparently going on in 2001, and it didn’t detect the Sept. 11 attack or prevent it. One has to wonder what the real motivation for surveillance really is.
We also have to wonder what the real motivation for Nacchio’s conviction was. Was he imprisoned for insider trading or for refusing to go along with the NSA’s unconstitutional behavior?
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