The Republican National Committee Blasts The NSA’s “Dragnet” Surveillance

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The Republican National Committee (RNC) has passed a resolution condemning the NSA’s mass surveillance, pushing back heavily on the actions of the security apparatus of the U.S. The resolution contains strong language in favor of privacy, the broad protections of the Fourth Amendment, and limited government.

This should be filed in the Snowden Effect folder.

Time got its hands on a full copy of the resolution, entitled “Resolution to Renounce the National Security Agency’s Surveillance Program.” The name is a decent summary of its content.

It calls the phone metadata program “an invasion into the personal lives of American citizens that violates the right of free speech and association afforded by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.” The PRISM program is “surveillance of U.S. citizens on a vast scale.” And bulk collection, the “mass collection and retention of personal data is in itself contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

And no, that’s not copy from a small-time blogger on a site advocating for Internet rights. The Hill wrote that the “RNC position represents an increasingly libertarian turn for the GOP.”

The resolution goes on to call Republican members of the House and Senate to:

[E]nact legislation to amend Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make it clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity, phone records and correspondence — electronic, physical, and otherwise — of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court […]

[C]all for a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying and the committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform [to] end unconstitutional surveillance as well as hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance. […]

[T]o immediately take action to halt current unconstitutional surveillance programs and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s data collection programs.

That’s an incredible list. The reforms listed above would end the legal framework that allows for much of the NSA’s mass surveillance activities. It doesn’t extend protections to foreign citizens, notably, something that President Obama recently nodded towards as a potential policy choice.

Calling for a committee to dig into the NSA harkens directly back to the Church Committee era, though the efficacy of that effort long-term has been a topic of discussion.

The RNC’s condemnations are broad, as are its prescriptions. The RNC’s resolution should not be taken as indicative of the mood of the larger Republican caucus. There are many Republicans who believe the NSA’s programs to be both legal and critically important to the nation’s security.

Still, the RNC is no small player in Republican politics, and so its words carry weight; the above could be cover for those previously lying low on the issue to come out in opposition to the NSA’s bulk data programs.

It will be particularly interesting to see what Rep. Mike Rogers has to say on the resolution. Rep. Rogers, a Republican, is chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and is one of the loudest defenders of the NSA.

(Recently, Rep. Rogers has pushed theories that Snowden’s eventual landing in Russia wasn’t accidental, implying that he had prior Russian help. There have been consistent rumors floated that Snowden worked with foreign powers to execute his theft, and leaking of top-secret government documents.  So far, to my knowledge, none have provided evidence of any substance to back such allegations. But as far as smear campaigns, it is likely an effective strategy. Snowden dismissed the allegation.)

There is a decent subset of Democrats — Rep. Amash, et al. — who are opposed to the NSA’s bulk data programs that target American citizens. To have the RNC come on board in this way could swing those in favor of limiting the National Security Agency into the majority.

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