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Accused robber wants NSA phone records to prove his innocence

Terrance Brown is on trial for bank robbery. His cell phone provider, Metro PCS, doesn't have records dating back to the robbery in 2010 that will allegedly prove his innocence. But his lawyer thinks the NSA must have.

Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

There has been much kvetching about the revelations suggesting that the National Security Agency might have obtained recordsof millions of phone calls over the years.

There has been less focus on the potential good this might have done.

No, I'm not talking about protecting the U.S.A. from bad people. I'm talking about giving you an alibi for a bank robbery.

For here is a man in Florida, Terrance Brown, who believes that the NSA should be forced to hand over any records it has of his calls forthwith.

As the Sun-Sentinel reports, Brown and five others stand accused of holding up armored trucks for their own gain.

Prosecutors, together with the FBI, say they have phone records that prove that Brown's alleged co-conspirators were in the vicinity when the robberies were committed in 2010. (Another alleged co-conspirator has already been tried and found guilty.)

However, the prosecution had trouble getting hold of Brown's records, because any phone he might have been using was under Metro PCS' aegis. The company says it has deleted the information.

So up stands his lawyer, Marshall Dore Louis, Wednesday to demand that the NSA freely give up records of two cell phones that Brown might have used.

Louis contends that this would prove that his client wasn't present at one of the robberies.

I wouldn't wish to dip even a ginger toe into this legal minefield.

However, I am sure that cliches involving geese, gander, boots, and other feet have flitted across a few minds, since Louis' request.

He has, indeed, made progress with it. The court told prosecutors they now have a little more time to reply. Clearly, there might have to be interesting conversations between them and senior figures in, say, Washington.

There are, naturally, complications. Prosecutors claim that such records might not prove where Brown was, as he might not have had these phones with him. (In which case, why are they using phone records in their case at all?)

Moreover, Brown's wife says that the phones he used at the time belonged to her, members of her family, and friends.

Still, what an interesting precedent it would set if Louis succeeded in obtaining the records.

And what an interesting precedent it would set if he failed.