Thursday, October 11, 2007

Did the Domestic Wiretapping Program Start Before 9/11?

A commenter at Obsidian Wings brought my attention to this article. In case you want to skip the link, some background: the former CEO of Qwest was recently convicted of insider trading after a trial in which he was blocked from presenting a defense that his prosecution was really just the result of retaliation for Qwest's refusal to comply with the government's wiretapping program. He is currently appealing the verdict (in part, it seems, on grounds that he was prevented from raising this defense). Some of the documents in the trial have now been released in a partially redacted form.

Money quote:

Nacchio planned to demonstrate at trial that he had a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., to discuss a $100 million project. According to the documents, another topic also was discussed at that meeting, one with which Nacchio refused to comply.
The topic itself is redacted each time it appears in the hundreds of pages of documents, but there is mention of Nacchio believing the request was both inappropriate and illegal, and repeatedly refusing to go along with it.
The NSA contract was awarded in July 2001 to companies other than Qwest.
USA Today reported in May 2006 that Qwest, unlike AT&T and Verizon, balked at helping the NSA track phone calling patterns that may have indicated terrorist organizational activities. Nacchio's attorney, Herbert Stern, confirmed that Nacchio refused to turn over customer telephone records because he didn't think the NSA program had legal standing.

I don't know how reliable all this is, since Nacchio certainly has incentive to lie, and since the article doesn't specify what type of documents these are. But if it's true, it holds a ton of meaning, not least of which is that the Bush/Cheney view of the Constitution didn't exactly change because of 9/11.