1976 Robbery: NSA Phone Spying Justified Because Of Purse Thief Michael Lee Smith?

A 1976 robbery is the excuse for NSA spying and collecting phone data according to some reports.

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, NSA spying even includes World of Warcraft and Second Life.

Michael Lee Smith was a purse thief who made the blunder of crank-calling his victim. So, when the Supreme Court heard the case for the 1976 robbery, it was decided the government, which presumably was expanded to include the NSA, was allowed to collect phone records without a warrant in order to catch a thief. This case was eventually used by the NSA as legal justification for their storage of the duration of calls and the phone numbers used to make and receive them.

The 1979 Supreme Court ruling was decided five to three, with one judge abstaining. And this case has been used as justification very recently. Just last month, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller in San Diego ruled the NSA’s collection of telephone records was constitutional in a case linking phone numbers from terrorist groups to an operative inside the United States.

But when it comes to the federal judge and the prosecutor behind the 1976 robbery, NSA spying was never their intention. For example, former Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs once argued the government could use collected phone records to make arrests but now he believes the government has misused prior case law:


“To say that a small-time robbery on the street is a precedent for what was then unforeseen and massive electronic surveillance is simply a stretch, to put it mildly. For present purposes, you have to say that the trapping of information from one suspect is different, for God’s sake, than trapping the data of every American who uses a telephone or the Internet. There’s a distinction of volume, of context. But that’s what the Supreme Court is going to have to decide.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington would agree. Just two days ago, he concluded the NSA phone spying based upon the 1976 robbery was unconstitutional:

“The almost-Orwellian technology that enables the government to store and analyze the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States is unlike anything that could have been conceived of in 1979.”

Besides the 1976 robbery, do you think NSA phone spying is justified in any circumstance?