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The One Telco Exec Who Resisted The NSA Has Been Released From 4+ Years In Jail


from the tell-it-like-it-is dept



Mark Masnick

September 27, 2013


If you were around during the reign of Joe Nacchio at Qwest, you already should be aware that he was not particularly well-liked. He was brash and obnoxious and often rubbed people the wrong way. There's a famous story, for example, of him calling up an executive at US West, a company that Qwest bought, which had a building directly across the street from Qwest's headquarters. Moments after the buyout closed, Nacchio got the exec on the phone and supposedly told him he had 15 minutes to change the sign on the building from US West to Qwest. Qwest collapsed in a somewhat spectacular manner not long after that, with some comparing it to the Enron collapse -- a lot of hype and stock pumping built on very little substance. A few years later, Nacchio was famously convicted of insider trading -- and certainly many people who had witnessed his earlier antics reveled in that result.


 However, it was only later that it started to come out that Nacchio was alone among all of the major telco execs to tell the NSA to get lost when they came calling, demanding the ability to basically tap Qwest's entire network. For years, Nacchio has insisted that the entire lawsuit against him was retaliation for his refusal. When he first made those claims, it sounded far fetched and ridiculous. However, in the intervening years, as more and more details of the NSA's activities have become clear, Nacchio's initial arguments seem a hell of a lot more plausible.


 It turns out that Nacchio was just released from prison after his 54 month sentence was completed. The WSJ has an odd but entertaining (and unfortunately paywalled -- though, you can get around it if you Google the title) article about his life in prison, where he apparently came out much healthier than he went in (lots of exercise) and is now best buddies with some former drug dealers who had his back in prison. One of whom, who goes by the name Spoonie, calls Nacchio "Joe-ski-luv" and says that they're best friends. "If he ever needs a lung or a bone, I'm there." Right.


 But, more interesting is the tidbit further down about the NSA stuff:

Mr. Nacchio said he still believes his insider-trading prosecution was government retaliation for rebuffing requests in 2001 from the National Security Agency to access his customers' phone records. His plans to use that belief as a defense at trial never materialized; some of the evidence he wanted to use was deemed classified and barred from being introduced.


 To Mr. Nacchio, the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked documents saying the agency monitors the email and phone records of Americans, have justified his own stance. He contended the NSA's request was illegal.


 "I feel vindicated," he said. "I never broke the law, and I never will."


 An NSA spokeswoman declined to comment.


I would imagine that Nacchio could add quite a bit of useful information to the ongoing debate. And, in fact, it appears he intends to do so, with plans to write a book about "Americans' loss of liberty based on his experiences with the NSA and other government agencies." I look forward to reading it.