NSA Phone Surveillance Records May Hold Treasure Trove of Evidence for Garden Variety Crimes

Thursday, June 20, 2013
Terrance Brown (photo:Broward County Sheriff's Office)

With reports indicating the National Security Agency (NSA) collects millions of phone records as part of its anti-terrorism programs, it is conceivable that the agency possesses evidence that could be useful in criminal cases.


At least one man in Florida accused of participating in an armored car robbery thinks so.


Terrance Brown, charged with the attempted robbery of armored cars that culminated in the murder of a Brink’s armored truck messenger in October 2010, has asked a federal judge to ask the government about telephone records that are pertinent to the case. Calls had been placed to and from two of Brown’s phones that Brown claims could exonerate him.


Brown’s legal defense tried to compel prosecutors to turn over the records. But they claimed the phone company, MetroPCS, no longer had them.


Judge Robin Rosenbaum took the request seriously, and ordered (pdf) the U.S. Department of Justice to respond to Brown’s inquiry.


Brown is accused of masterminding the robberies. Another man, Nathaniel Moss, pleaded guilty to several charges related to the robberies, including being the shooter of the guard. Prosecutors had used cell phone records for Moss and other robbery collaborators to tie Brown to the crime.


“I suspect we’ll see motions like this popping up in courts throughout the country,” Jason Weinstein, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division, told Main Justice. “But I don’t expect them to be successful. Because notwithstanding the [NSA] leak, the government will still be able to argue that disclosure or a hearing on the motion would be detrimental to national security.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Feds Must Produce NSA Dragnet Records for Criminal Defense (by Julia Flip, Courthouse News Service)

Can Accused Bank Robber Get NSA Phone Records for His Defense? Lawyers Differ (by Jennifer Koons, Main Justice)

Judge Demands NSA Releases Dragnet Surveillance Records for Criminal Case (RT)

United States of America vs. Terrance Brown: Motion to Compel Production of Phone Records (United States District Court, Southern District of Florida) (pdf)

U.S. Spies Collect 3 Billion Pieces of Intelligence a Day from Computer and Telephone Networks Worldwide (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Obama Administration Orders Verizon to Turn over all Call Records (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)       

High Court Let’s Telecoms Keep Immunity in NSA Spy Case (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)   


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