An Oct. 13 Page One article about an allegation that the government withdrew a $100 million contract after Qwest refused to participate in a National Security Agency program incorrectly quoted Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He did not say: "It's inappropriate for the government to be awarding a contract conditioned upon an agreement to an illegal program. That truly is what's going on here." What he said was: "It's inappropriate for the government to be awarding a contract conditioned upon an agreement to an illegal program, if that's truly what's going on here."
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Former CEO Says U.S. Punished Phone Firm
In a May 25, 2007, order, U.S. District Judge Edward W. Nottingham wrote that Nacchio has asserted that "Qwest entered into two classified contracts valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, without a competitive bidding process and that in 2000 and 2001, he participated in discussion with high-ranking [redacted] representatives concerning the possibility of awarding additional contracts of a similar nature." He wrote, "Those discussions led him to believe that [redacted] would award Qwest contracts valued at amounts that would more than offset the negative warnings he was receiving about Qwest's financial prospects."
The newly released court documents say that, on Feb. 27, 2001, Nacchio and James Payne, then Qwest's senior vice president of government systems, met with NSA officials at Fort Meade, expecting to discuss "Groundbreaker," a project to outsource the NSA's non-mission-critical systems.
The men came out of the meeting "with optimism about the prospect for 2001 revenue from NSA," according to an April 9, 2007, court filing by Nacchio's lawyers that was disclosed this week.
But the filing also claims that Nacchio "refused" to participate in some unidentified program or activity because it was possibly illegal and that the NSA later "expressed disappointment" about Qwest's decision.
"Nacchio said it was a legal issue and that they could not do something that their general counsel told them not to do. . . . Nacchio projected that he might do it if they could find a way to do it legally," the filing said.
Mike German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the documents show "that there is more to this story about the government's relationship with the telecoms than what the administration has admitted to."
Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said: "It's inappropriate for the government to be awarding a contract conditioned upon an agreement to an illegal program. That truly is what's going on here."
The foundation has sued AT&T, charging that it violated privacy laws by cooperating with the government's warrantless surveillance program.
Staff researcher Richard Drezen contributed to this report.