"The phone company Qwest Communications refused a proposal from the National Security Agency that the company’s lawyers considered illegal in February 2001, nearly seven months before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, the former head of the company contends in newly unsealed court filings.
The executive, Joseph P. Nacchio, also asserts in the filings that the agency retaliated by depriving Qwest of lucrative outsourcing contracts.
The filings were made as Mr. Nacchio fought charges of insider trading. He was ultimately convicted in April of 19 counts of insider trading and has been sentenced to six years in prison. He remains free while appealing the conviction.
Mr. Nacchio said last year that he had refused an N.S.A. request for customers’ call records in late 2001, after the Sept. 11 attacks, as the agency initiated domestic surveillance and data mining programs to monitor Al Qaeda communications.
But the documents unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Denver, first reported in The Rocky Mountain News on Thursday, claim for the first time that pressure on the company to participate in activities it saw as improper came as early as February, nearly seven months before the terrorist attacks.
The significance of the claim is hard to assess, because the court documents are heavily redacted and N.S.A. officials will not comment on the agency’s secret surveillance programs. Other government officials have said that the agency’s eavesdropping without warrants began only after Sept. 11, 2001, under an order from President Bush.
But the court filings in Mr. Nacchio’s case illustrate what is well known inside the telecommunications industry but little appreciated by the public: that the N.S.A. has for some time worked closely with phone companies, whose networks carry the telephone and Internet traffic the agency seeks out for intercept."
Mr. Nacchio appears to be putting pressure on prosecutors in his insider trading case by threatening to reveal what the NSA was up to prior to September 11. The juicy details are all redacted. We've been led to believe by American authorities like Condi Rice that the sum total of American intelligence was based on scraps of 'chatter' out of the Middle East, with no specific details (". . . I don't think anybody could have predicted . . "). Just what 'improper' activities were resisted by Quest, activities which it saw as similar to the requests to monitor 'al Qaeda' after September 11? Just who was the NSA interested in listening to in the United States at a time months before they - and the American government - were even supposed to be aware there was a plot to attack the United States?