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Is 1976 Robbery Legally Relevant To NSA Spying?

Publication Date: 
December 17, 2013
The Washington Post - The Fed Page
Associated Press

CIS Director of Civil Liberties Jennifer Granick in quoted in this Washington Post article on the expectations of privacy the public has when it comes to phone records and other personal data. 

The small-time case of a Baltimore purse-snatcher who got nabbed after crank-calling his victim in 1976 laid the legal groundwork for today’s worldwide government surveillance of telephone records in the name of protecting the U.S. from terrorists.

The Supreme Court eventually heard the case of Michael Lee Smith, ruling that the government was allowed to collect his phone records to tie him to the purse-snatching. And since the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency has used that case to justify the collection of “metadata” — the duration of calls and the phone numbers used to make and receive them — of hundreds of millions of Americans and foreigners.


“The question here is, do you have the expectation of privacy for your phone records?” said Jennifer Granick, a lawyer and director of civil liberties for Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society. “Judge Leon answered that unequivocally.”