Monday, October 15, 2007

Secret wiretap grab 7 months before 9/11

Seven months before 9/11, shortly after Bush was inaugurated for his first term, the NSA was arranging for wiretap powers that went beyond lawful authority, according to court documents obtained by the Rocky Mountain News.

It appears that Bush may have secretly seized wartime surveillance power -- as soon as he got into office!

Joseph P. Nacchio, former chief of Qwest, a telecom company, tried to use this information in his fight with the U.S. attorney over purported insider trading. He was convicted after the judge agreed to a novel interpretation of insider trading law.

Nacchio said he had been invited to NSA headquarters in February 2001 to discuss a defense contract for improving internet security. During the discussion, the NSA official proposed an arrangement that Nacchio rejected, on advice of Qwest's counsel, as illegal. NSA has suppressed details, but it is apparent that a warrantless wiretap operation was the subject.

Qwest did not get the defense contract, but Nacchio did get prosecuted after he revealed that the feds had asked Qwest to do something illegal. The court papers are the first indication that this wiretap ower was obtained by the NSA long before 9/11 or any sign of war.

Other telecom firms, which obtained contracts, apparently did go along with the NSA program. Bush is demanding that they be retroactively protected by Act of Congress from lawsuits regarding breach of duty to protect privacy.

So I'd like to know: did Cheney go over to Capitol Hill and quietly brief eight members of Congress on this clandestine program in February 2001?

Aside from the Rocky, the New York Times carried a piece on the matter on Sunday.

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