Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio is currently serving a six-year sentence after being convicted of insider trading in April 2007 for selling $52 million of stock in the spring of 2001 as the telecommunications carrier appeared to be deteriorating.
During the trial his defense team argued that Nacchio, 63, believed Qwest was about to win secret government contracts that would keep it in the black.
Nacchio alleged that the government stopped offering the company lucrative contracts after Qwest refused to cooperate with a National Security Agency surveillance program in February 2001.
That claim gains new relevance these days, amid leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden that allege widespread domestic surveillance by the NSA.
Back in 2006 Leslie Cauley of USA Today, citing multiple people with direct knowledge of the arrangement, reported that shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks America’s three largest telecoms signed contracts to provide the NSA with detailed call records from hundreds of millions of people across the country.
Cauley noted that Qwest’s refusal to participate “left the NSA with a hole in its database” since the company served local phone service to 14 million customers in 14 states.
From USA Today (emphasis ours):
The NSA, which needed Qwest’s participation to completely cover the country, pushed back hard. …
… the agency suggested that Qwest’s foot-dragging might affect its ability to get future classified work with the government.