In George Orwell’s (fictional?) dystopian future, the slogans ran this way: FREEDOM is SLAVERY and IGNORANCE is STRENGTH. And this week we have heard President Obama assure us that his domestic surveillance practices are “modest encroachments on privacy.”
(Florida South Florida Sun-Sentinal) One South Florida man accused in a series of bank robbery attempts is hoping the recent revelation that the federal government is secretly keeping millions of U.S. phone records could help his defense.
The FBI and federal prosecutors are using cellphone records in court to try to prove that the five accused men were all nearby when the robbery attempts and planning occurred, as Moss, who is cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, testified.
The prosecution had told defense attorneys that they were unable to obtain Brown’s cellphone records from the period before September 2010 because his carrier, MetroPCS, had not held on to them.
Not so fast, Brown’s attorney Marshall Dore Louis argued in court documents filed in Fort Lauderdale days after the NSA surveillance program was revealed last week. Louis argued in court Wednesday that the government should be forced to turn over phone location records for two cellphones Brown may have used because it could prove he was not present for one of the attempted bank robberies, on July 26 on Federal Highway in Lighthouse Point.
“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.
U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum agreed to give prosecutors an extra week or two to respond fully after they said they needed more time.
“There are security procedures that must be followed,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Walleisa said of the special protocols the Department of Justice follows when dealing with information, usually used to identify possible terrorist activity, that may have been secretly obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Prosecutor Michael Gilfarb told the judge that even if the information is available, it may be irrelevant depending on whether Brown carried a phone.
Brown’s wife, Vesta Murat Brown, who testified for the prosecution Wednesday morning, told jurors that her husband didn’t have a cellphone at the time but sometimes borrowed phones from her, other family members or friends.
Local lawyers said they anticipate there will be many more requests for this kind of information now that defense attorneys know the information may have been preserved.