privacy stand admirable
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Qwest and its former chief executive Joseph Nacchio are
being hailed as heroes for resisting the National Security
Agency's request for private telephone records of its
It was an admirable stand by Nacchio, who believed the
government's request in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001,
terror attacks violated privacy provisions of the
Telecommunications Act. "Mr. Nacchio made inquiry as to
whether a warrant or other legal process had been secured in
support of that request," said his lawyer Herbert J. Stern.
"When he learned that no such authority had been granted,
and that there was a disinclination on the part of the
authorities to use any legal process...," Nacchio "issued
instructions to refuse to comply," Stern said.
The NSA reportedly threatened to cut off Qwest from future
classified contracts with intelligence agencies, according
to a report in USA Today.
The newspaper named Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth as having
helped the government. BellSouth and Verizon are
challenging the report.
We're left to ponder where the episode will leave Nacchio as
he battles charges of insider trading unrelated to the NSA
controversy. When the case goes to trial, will jurors look
kindly on a guy who faced down the government on a matter of
Nacchio and his lawyers can only hope.
On the one hand, polls indicate solid public support for the
NSA request. On the other, 15,000 people have visited the
thankyouqwest.org site launched to urge customers to reward
Qwest with their business.
There are plenty of cynics who believe that Nacchio is
attempting to bolster his legal defense in the insider
trading case by going public on the NSA requests. But such
a tactic seems far-fetched, given that Nacchio left the
company in 2002 with $26 billion in debt and federal probes
of its accounting practices.
Nacchio was indicted last December on 42 counts of insider
trading. Prosecutors contend he illegally sold $101 million
in stock after learning his company faced a series of
financial risks. Nacchio contends, ironically perhaps, that
he sold his stock thinking Qwest was about to get a boost
from secret government contracts.
Nacchio deserves credit for taking a stand to protect Qwest
consumer privacy, and all phone customers need to be wary of
the slow erosion of privacy rights occurring in Washington.