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NSA Phone Records Revive Debate Over Supreme Court Case

Publication Date: 
August 21, 2013
Larry Abramson

CIS Director of Civil Liberties Jennifer Granick spoke with David Greene during NPR's Morning Edition about the 1978 case Smith v. Maryland, and why she believes that case is a "huge leap" from justifying mass surveillance. 

The government says phone and email traffic is not protected by the Fourth Amendment, and does not require a court warrant to search. The logic is based on a 1978 case that has been hauled out regularly to justify acquisition of third-party information.


But does that logic apply to bulk collection of the sort that's at the heart of the debate over NSA surveillance?Law professor Jennifer Granick of Stanford University says it's a huge leap from the Smith case to the NSA order for all phone records.

JENNIFER GRANICK: Nothing in Smith versus Maryland authorizes mass surveillance, and the information that was collected in Smith versus Maryland is a much narrower category than the information that the government's currently getting.