USATODAY.com - NSA has massive database of Americans' phone callsA lot of people must be very worried about the health of this country to take the risk of talking about this. They are true American heroes.
... One major telecommunications company declined to participate in the program: Qwest.
According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest's CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA's assertion that Qwest didn't need a court order — or approval under FISA — to proceed. Adding to the tension, Qwest was unclear about who, exactly, would have access to its customers' information and how that information might be used.
Financial implications were also a concern, the sources said. Carriers that illegally divulge calling information can be subjected to heavy fines. The NSA was asking Qwest to turn over millions of records. The fines, in the aggregate, could have been substantial.
The NSA told Qwest that other government agencies, including the FBI, CIA and DEA, also might have access to the database, the sources said. As a matter of practice, the NSA regularly shares its information — known as 'product' in intelligence circles — with other intelligence groups. Even so, Qwest's lawyers were troubled by the expansiveness of the NSA request, the sources said.
The NSA, which needed Qwest's participation to completely cover the country, pushed back hard.
Trying to put pressure on Qwest, NSA representatives pointedly told Qwest that it was the lone holdout among the big telecommunications companies. It also tried appealing to Qwest's patriotic side: In one meeting, an NSA representative suggested that Qwest's refusal to contribute to the database could compromise national security, one person recalled.
In addition, the agency suggested that Qwest's foot-dragging might affect its ability to get future classified work with the government. Like other big telecommunications companies, Qwest already had classified contracts and hoped to get more.
Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest's lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.
The NSA's explanation did little to satisfy Qwest's lawyers. 'They told (Qwest) they didn't want to do that because FISA might not agree with them,' one person recalled. For similar reasons, this person said, NSA rejected Qwest's suggestion of getting a letter of authorization from the U.S. attorney general's office. A second person confirmed this version of events...
Thursday, May 11, 2006
I'm a Qwest customer - voice and DSL. I've never thought of them as particularly heroic. Time to rethink. Note that the NSA explicitly refused to involve the FISA court or the US attorney general's office. They were authorized by a higher power.