National Press Club

Nacchio, at NPC Newsmaker, warns of NSA overreach on phone records

August 2, 2015 | By Mike Smith | mike@msbdinc.com

Joseph P. Nacchio, former chairman/CEO of Qwest Communications, at July 29 Newsmaker on NSA reform. Mike Smith (seated) of the Newsmakers Committee moderated the event.

Joseph P. Nacchio, former chairman/CEO of Qwest Communications, at July 29 Newsmaker on NSA reform. Mike Smith (seated) of the Newsmakers Committee moderated the event.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Joseph P. Nacchio, the former chairman and CEO of Qwest Communications International and convicted felon on insider trading who spent 72 months in federal prison (and forfeited $62 million), warned that the newly passed USA Freedom Act doesn't go far enough to rein in National Security Agency scrutiny of Americans’ digital and phone records.

At a July 29 National Press Club Newsmaker, Nacchio, the Brooklyn-born son of a longshoreman who earned an MBA from New York University and a master’s in engineering from MIT, charged that the USA Freedom Act does not adequately reform the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act was ruled unlawful by an Appeals Court in May, 2015. On June 2, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act just hours before all surveillance authority was stripped from NSA and other intelligence-gathering agencies.

The new law provides limits on bulk collection of phone records and communications data while preserving data sweeps.

In 2001, before 9-11 and while serving as a Bush Administration political appointee and chair of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, Nacchio refused a request for a warrantless search of Qwest customer data. He demanded a court order under the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which agents could not produce. Shortly after, Nacchio charges, the federal government cancelled large telecomm contracts and began investigating him on SEC violations in stock trading.

Nacchio proposed surveillance reform measures including removing sovereign immunity from government officials who violate Americans constitutional rights particularly on surveillance; limiting prosecutorial discretion and impose penalties; passing legislation to protect personal privacy rights; implementing strong civilian oversight of all domestic surveillance; and requiring that all surveillance information on U.S. citizens be held no longer than six months without Court Order.

Nacchio also revealed that the U.S. Postal Service has allowed over 50,000 law enforcement requests to open and review mail without judicial reviews and the Drug Enforcement Agency had harvested international phone records for 20 years from 1992-2013 under a “tips” program.

He was in Washington to receive a “corporate courage” award at the National Whistle Blower Summit for Civil and Human Rights.