Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 13, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

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.

Kevin Drum 2:23 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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[masked IP/banned commenter]

Posted by: Al on October 13, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

It's most certainly worth hearings to find out if, before 9/11, this administration was setting up illegal surveillance programs. It's also worth noting that Nacchio claims Qwest would have taken part if the administration could have provided warrants or some sort of legal cover for the program. But of course, they couldn't be bothered by such hindrances.

Nacchio will be portrayed as a tainted accuser, which may be very well accurate, but two things can be true at the same time; he could be the typical rules-are-for-little-people CEO and be telling the truth about the Feb. 27th meeting.

What do you think the chances are that anything more will come of Nacchio's accusations? Sigh.

Posted by: jrw on October 13, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

"... NSA's secret domestic wiretapping scheme ..."

There is a borderline between hyerbolic spin and flat-out lying. You just crossed it.

Posted by: am on October 13, 2007 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

[masked IP/banned commenter]

Posted by: Al on October 13, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

[DELETED]

Posted by: Swan on October 13, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Boy, the nuts are out in force today.

a key anti-terrorist program

You mean secret, illegal, indiscriminate gathering of phone records? And a program that, evidently, didn't work?

a dedicated warrior in the fight against terror

The one who famously said, when warned of terrorist attacks using airplanes, "...you covered your ass now"

If Clinton had implemented that program

In all discussions, just shout, "It's Clinton's fault!" over and over.

the program was used to spy on terrorists

No, you idiot, the problem with this surveillance is that there are no safeguards and oversights to ensure it's not used to spy on anyone and everyone.

And AM, what's wrong with "secret", "domestic" and "wiretapping"? All those words seem to be accurate and true.

Posted by: jrw on October 13, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

It's too bad that someone less sleazy than Joe Nacchio hasn't raised this issue. As it stands, this issue will die away because Republicans will viciously attack Nacchio's credibility. And for once, their smears will be accurate.

Posted by: fostert on October 13, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once.

The only imaginable target of a surveillance program before 11 Sep. 2001 would have been the domestic opponents of the Republican Party.

The only imaginable target of a surveillance program AFTER 11 Sep. 2001 would have been the domestic opponents of the Republican Party.

[Whoso doubts this must do two things: 1) Google "Tom Charles Huston". 2) Shut up and stay shut.]


Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on October 13, 2007 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Unlike, say, MoveOn ads or Rush Limbaugh shows, this really does seem like a worthy object of congressional investigation, doesn't it?

Just so. I thought exactly that when I read the story (this morning?).

The only imaginable target of a surveillance program before 11 Sep. 2001 would have been the domestic opponents of the Republican Party.

Surveillance of domestic political opponents has been popular at least since Johnson was tapping Nixon's phones. (And thereafter of course, Nixon had to get into the act as well.)

The beaureaucrats who actually do police work believe there are doing God's work of some sort or another and that they need all the power they can get and they say whatever they have to to get their hands on it. It is merely that the R's are even less adverse to spying on Americans than the D's are. That does not mean, of course, that once the handy dandy tool comes available that it won't be used for other nefarious purposes. Of course it will be!

max
['And that's why you have to stomp everyone's asses, specifically including the current congressional leadership, to put a stop to this kinda bullshit.']

Posted by: max on October 13, 2007 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

The axe grinding comment:

Nacchio is trying to avoid jail time for insider trading and obviously has an axe to grind.

It begs the question, what exactly does Nacchio hope to achieve by this hot news tip?

Such a statesment would not give Nacchio "immunity" because it doesn't apply here. Is such comments for plea bargining - that begs the question of with whom?

What is Nacchio hoping such news will get him.

A Libby style presidential pradon? Not likely.

Nixon fell because, in the end, it was every man for himself, and scapegoating became the order of the day. For this administration, it's always the basic smear campaign. Nacchio may have an axe to grind but such a comment is so broad, so ambiguous, it's really quite irrelvent. GOP will use it because it's a generalization.

Something tells me that in course of Nicchino's trial - this info came out, not as part of an axe to grind, but merely as a statement of fact.

Posted by: Me_again on October 13, 2007 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

The Bushites were intent on illegally spying on Americans from the get-go.

And most telcoms went along; the one that didn't lost government contracts and had its CEO investigated.

If the Congress had any real concern for the Constitution, impeachment hearings would begin immediately.

Posted by: devtob on October 13, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

The only imaginable target of a surveillance program before 11 Sep. 2001 would have been the domestic opponents of the Republican Party.

Bush is an extemely vindictive nasty guy alright, that’s true.

But Bush and Cheney are criminal to the hilt.

Those two did this because Bushism is a government policy for money sell off. Bush got into the Whitehouse and started auctioning the US government policy off to the highest bidder, thus all the un-bid contracts, all the secrecy, letting big oil out of legal actions, cheap talk about caps and trade offs, the Bush administration threatening to fire a top Medicare official if he gave out the real cost of Bush’s senior drug bill. Bushism is organized, syndicated criminal activity and that is ALL the Bush administration is or has ever been, and even as some reported that Bush “politicizing the Whitehouse” that was just another way of saying that Bush and Cheney are big time white-collar criminals.

Hillary is right, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy out there. It's a bunch of criminals, that by every definition is what we call a "mob".

American citizens have a lot to be worry about.

Posted by: Me_again on October 13, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Two words: Henry Waxman.

Posted by: theAmericanist on October 13, 2007 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

So, shortly after entering the White House and at the same time BushCo was meeting secretly with oil company executives to discuss "energy" profiteering, BushCo was also meeting secretly with telecommunications executives to map out BushCo's FISA-skirting strategy for spying on U.S. citizens.

I'm not surprised.

At the same time these secret power-grabbing and profit-grabbing top-level BushCo meetings were occurring in early 2001, BushCo demoted the counter-terrorism chief, Richard Clarke, to a basement office and locked him out of cabinet-level principals meetings.

At the same time these secret power-grabbing and profit-grabbing BushCo principals meetings were occurring, BushCo stopped holding the thrice-weekly cabinet-level counter-terrorism meetings that Bill Clinton's administration had been holding to address the right-wing al Qaeda terrorist threat. BushCo only held ONE such meeting ONE week before the 9/11 attacks.

Now we know what was distracting the criminals in BushCo to such an extent before 9/11 that BushCo literally aided and abetted the 9/11 hijackers..

Posted by: The Oracle on October 13, 2007 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

And once again I have to urge everyone to contact their Representatives and urge them to institute impeachment proceedings against both Bush and Cheyney.
Ensure that you include the following in any message: once an impeachment investigation has begun, the President is barred by the Constitution from issuing any pardons to anyone involved. That means that anyone called before the investigating committee has no recourse; no get out of jail free cards are available for the President's use.
Without the possiblity of a presidential pardon for protection, just how many people will start singing to protect themselves?
As a sidenote, the pardon issued to Nixon by Ford was most likely unconstitutional (the Constitution doesn't limit the pardon ban to any president but simply states that the president has the power to issue pardons "except in cases of impeachment"), but noone contested it.
I will admit I haven't written my congressman; he's Dan Burton(R) of shooting watermelons fame.

Posted by: Doug on October 13, 2007 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

This doesn't mean Alberto Gonzales has an alibi does it?

Posted by: jon on October 13, 2007 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "their "[USC's] 'projected' rank in tomorrow's BCS poll is #13. Say what?"

After yet another lackluster performance at home today, this time squeaking by a game 2-4 Arizona team, you should be grateful that the Trojans are even ranked that high. They're obviously playing to the level of their competition. They better not look past 1-6 Notre Dame, like the Bruins did in the Rose Bowl last Saturday, much to their chagrin.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on October 13, 2007 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

Well, whaddaya know. Looks like Bush was trying to track terrorists before 9/11.

Seriously, why assume this NSA operation was a program that was only initiated after Bush was elected? This kind of thing may have been going on for some time.

Posted by: harry on October 13, 2007 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

I am hearing much about this stuff...but so far none talk of CALEA [1994] or its relationship to the current squabble.

Posted by: Ya Know... on October 13, 2007 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

Sanchez takes the typical neo-con line and calls for unity above all else i.e. for an end to checks and balances on which the United States is founded. Sanchez fails to criticize the Oval Office because, of course, unity above all else is the line of the Oval Office. Sanchez is calling for dictarorship. Duty, honor country are hollow words to Sanchez. Ricardo Sanchez is a disgrace to the US Army.

Posted by: zed on October 13, 2007 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

An amazing aside to this story is that NSA actually thought QWest could accomplish anything, except for overbilling. Their tie-in with Microsoft for providing internet service, is even worse. Makes the "Slowskis" look like world class sprinters.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on October 14, 2007 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

harry is absolutely correct - This network was badly needed by the NSA - Isn't the Ninth Circuit Court in QWest's area?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on October 14, 2007 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Well, whaddaya know. Looks like Bush was trying to track terrorists before 9/11

Well, whaddya know? tbrosz' healthy distrust of government goes out the window when his boy Bush is running the show. "Take my civil liberties, please! I know you only want what's best for me!"

Posted by: shortstop on October 14, 2007 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Unlike, say, MoveOn ads or Rush Limbaugh shows, this really does seem like a worthy object of congressional investigation, doesn't it?
Checks and balances are passe. It is now Washington against the people.

Posted by: Luther on October 14, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Well, whaddaya know. Looks like Bush was trying to track terrorists before 9/11."

Even assuming this is true, which is silly given the public and private statements and actions of this administration, all this demonstrates is that Bush failed, miserably, since this oh-so-effective and oh-so-necessary illegal operation failed to prevent 9/11.

"Seriously, why assume this NSA operation was a program that was only initiated after Bush was elected?"

Well, mostly because it's illegal, which is why most people charitably assumed that Bush would only have been driven to it by the events of 9/11.

"This kind of thing may have been going on for some time."

Just what we need -- additional proof of Bush's malfeasance and incompetence.

Posted by: PaulB on October 14, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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