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June 19, 2013

Judge Orders NSA To Release Dragnet Surveillance Records For Armed Robbery Case

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In what could become a precedent-setting legal battle, a Florida judge has ordered that the NSA provide the court with phone records of a man accused of armed robbery. What does this case have to do with national security? Absolutely nothing, but the records exist and could exonerate the man.

In wake of the NSA surveillance scandal, a Florida judge has demanded that the federal agency hand over the phone records of a man charged with attempted robbery, to help solve a case that culminated in a murder.

The motion provides a glimpse into how the National Security Agency’s surveillance records could be obtained in the future, now that whistleblowers have revealed details of the controversial spy program

Terrance Brown is on trial in Fort Lauderdale for planning a robbery that resulted in the death of an armored car messenger. Brown’s lawyers say they can not get access to Brown’s phone records and that his carrier MetroPCS has lost the records but that the information could prove Brown’s innocence.

The defendant has pleaded not guilty, but prosecutors have relied on the cell phone records of the robbery’s co-conspirators to try to prove Brown’s involvement. Defense attorneys believe that the missing phone records would prove that Brown was not involved in the July 2010 robbery attempt. The revelation of the NSA’s surveillance program has generated hope that Brown’s missing phone records could be obtained, and possibly prove his alleged innocence.

“The government must be ordered to turn over the records for the two telephones that it attributes to Mr. Brown for the dates which are relevant to this case – the month of July of 2010,” attorney Marshall Dore Louis wrote in the motion to compel production of records.

Well now this could get interesting. The NSA clearly has the evidence so why shouldn’t they hand it over to the court? Can the NSA defy a court order, if so, on what grounds? And if the NSA is forced to hand over the information it will surely the open the door for numerous other attorneys to seek the records.

Obviously the NSA does not want to be absorbed into the legal system (in many ways) but what choice do they have? They have vital information for criminal (and surely civil) legal cases. Now we get to see the bureaucracies fight it out. Popcorn please.

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