Nacchio says he feels “vindicated” by ongoing revelations
provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the NSA does, in fact, access massive
amounts of metadata and communique information of both foreigners
Nacchio told The Wall Street Journal that the NSA set up a
meeting with him in February 2001 wherein he believed they would
discuss potential government contracts. But he says the NSA
instead asked him for permission to surveil Qwest customers.
He says he refused to cooperate based on advice from his lawyers
that such an action would be illegal, as the NSA would not go
through the normal process of asking the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Court for a subpoena. About this time, he says the
company’s ability to win unrelated government contracts –
something it did not have trouble with before the NSA meeting –
It took until 2007 before Nacchio was convicted of insider
trading. Prosecutors claim he was guilty of selling off Qwest
stock in early 2001, not long before the company went through
financial ills. Nevertheless, he claimed in court documents that
he was still confident in the firm’s ability to win government
Nacchio believes his conviction was in retaliation for his
refusal to play ball with legally dubious NSA spying requests.
“I never broke the law, and I never will,” Nacchio told
His version of events matches reporting by USA Today in 2006, in
which the paper noted that Qwest was the lone holdout from the
government’s warrantless surveillance operations and that
defiance “might affect its ability to get future classified
work with the government.”
Yet despite his efforts, Nacchio was barred from using any
evidence of potential retaliation in his defense, given that the
material was considered classified, and his judge refused
requests to allow the evidence in trial. Reports from The
Washington Post on evidence that has been made public on his case
since that time seem consistent with the CEO’s claims.
As a result of his likely hobbled defense, Nacchio was indicted
by federal prosecutors and served four-and-a half years in
federal prisons before being released in late September.
The NSA has declined to comment on Nacchio, according to the WSJ
and The Washington Post.
While spying operations disclosed by Snowden have had some level
of legal backing, President George W. Bush’s wiretapping program
did not. Thus, telecom companies that cooperated with the program
were eventually given immunity for their compliance in 2008.