The Association of U S West Retirees



Qwest privacy stand admirable
Denver Post
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 customers.

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 customer privacy?

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 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.