The NSA program of mining the data of Americans has generated quite a bit of controversy, but for one bank robbery suspect it might win him his freedom.
A South Florida man accused in a series of bank robberies is hoping the recently revealed program to spy on Americans by the federal government will yield the evidence he’s seeking to prove he wasn’t present when the crimes took place.
Terrance Brown, 40, is accused along with four other men of holding up armored trucks making cash deliveries. One of the co-conspirators is already serving life in federal prison after he confessed to shooting and killing a Brinks’ armored truck guard during the alleged team’s final heist.
Federal prosecutors want to use the remaining suspects’ cell phone records to show they were together when the robberies and planning took place, but Brown’s records have been erased by his carrier, MetroPCS.
That is where the bank robbery suspect wants the NSA to step in. Brown’s attorney, Marshall Dore Louis, filed court documents asking for the National Security Agency to turn over the phone records it has, arguing that they will prove he wasn’t present for the robberies.
“The president of the United States has recognized this program has been ongoing since 2006 … to gather the phone numbers [and related information] of everybody including my client in 2010,” Louis said.
Though the program has come under fire since whistleblower Edward Snowden released information to news outlets, NSA head General Keith Alexander has maintained that the program is effective. He said “dozens” of planned terrorist attacks have been foiled by US intelligence because of the data mining program from the NSA.
The bank robbery suspect’s request could open a host of new issues about privacy and access to NSA data. Experts think that if the government is spying on citizens, they should have a right to access to those records for their defense.
Even if the NSA can turn over its secret phone records, it might not help the bank robbery suspect. Brown’s wife testified that he didn’t have a cell phone and sometimes borrowed hers, so the records may not shed light on whether he was present for the robberies.