Revenge of the NSA?

REVENGE OF THE NSA?….I got busy yesterday and failed to post about former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio’s claim that he lost some juicy government contracts six years ago because of his refusal to cooperate with the NSA’s secret domestic wiretapping scheme. The problem is that companies win and lose federal contracts for all sorts of reasons, so it’s hard to judge whether Nacchio has a legitimate complaint here — and it’s especially hard because Nacchio is trying to avoid jail time for insider trading and obviously has an axe to grind. But regardless of that, Atrios and Steve Benen are right to highlight this as a key factual claim:

Details about the alleged NSA program have been redacted from the documents, but Nacchio’s lawyer said last year that the NSA had approached the company about participating in a warrantless surveillance program to gather information about Americans’ phone records.

….Nacchio’s account, which places the NSA proposal at a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, suggests that the Bush administration was seeking to enlist telecommunications firms in programs without court oversight before the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

Unlike, say, MoveOn ads or Rush Limbaugh shows, this really does seem like a worthy object of congressional investigation, doesn’t it? At a guess, I’d say that the program Nacchio objected to was one that involved data mining of telephone network metadata (see here and here for more). Interestingly, it’s this program, rather than the NSA’s actual domestic eavesdropping, that might have been the provocation for the great Justice Department showdown in John Ashcroft’s hospital room in 2004.