Could Edward Snowden's NSA Leak Exonerate This Accused Robber?

ByAlyssa Farah

A case involving a man accused of armed robbery raises some interesting questions regarding the NSA’s much-criticized phone surveillance program. 

A Fort Lauderdale, Fla. man, Terrence Brown, on trial for armed robbery is hoping that his phone records will exonerate him. 

The accused pleaded not guilty along with four other men. A sixth man, Nathaniel Morris, is already serving a life sentence for the murder of one of the truck drivers during the armed robbery spree. Morris testified that Brown was an accomplice, which Brown hopes to challenge by showing his phone records have him at another location.

Complicating matters more, Brown was a Metro PCS customer, which does not keep phone records as far back as 2010, when the crime took place.

However, Brown’s attorney has filed court documents arguing that in light of the NSA phone-tapping revelations, it is possible that the government has proof that could exonerate Brown.

With the revelation that millions of Americans phone records have been collected by the U.S. government, the question becomes: Do you have ownership over your private phone communications, and if not, who does?

This case could very possibly answer that question, and the answer may be concerning for millions of cell phone users.

Most Americans assume that their private communications are their property. But the revelation of NSA’s phone surveillance program has called that assumption into question, with the government indicating that those communications are in fact the property of the cell phone company — and that the government has the right to seize them at any time.

In a world of ever-evolving technology it’s important that we not allow our most basic liberties to fall by the wayside as new technology springs up with new and unforeseen opportunities for our privacy to be compromised.

When establishing property rights, our founders took into account not only tangible property rights but intellectual property rights as well. At what point did our private thoughts, conversations and communications become the property of the government and not our own?

Brown’s case may very well hinge on illegally obtained cell phone records that are currently in the possession of the U.S. government. It doesn’t even seem a matter of question whether or not his defense has the right to access these records, if they do in fact exist.

After all, why does the U.S. government have more claim to an individuals private communications than the individual does?