Back in 2001, the NSA pushed telecommunications companies to comply with their massive spying program. Only one company fought back. As a result, the CEO ended up in federal prison. He served four and a half years and is just now getting out.
Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio was found guilty of insider trading, but it is ironic that the feds were already upset with him for refusing to participate in their program, which was later deemed to constitute illegal spying on American citizens. But Nacchio says that this is not the case, and that he was sent to prison for refusing to help the NSA.
After his release from custody Sept. 20, Nacchio told the Wall Street Journal that he feels “vindicated” by the content of the leaks that show that the agency was collecting American’s phone records.
Nacchio was convicted of selling of Qwest stock in early 2001, not long before the company hit financial troubles. However, he claimed in court documents that he was optimistic about the firm’s ability to win classified government contracts — something they’d succeeded at in the past. And according to his timeline, in February 2001 — some six months before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — he was approached by the NSA and asked to spy on customers during a meeting he thought was about a different contract. He reportedly refused because his lawyers believed such an action would be illegal and the NSA wouldn’t go through the FISA Court. And then, he says, unrelated government contracts started to disappear.