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Republican party condemns government spying

The Republican National Committee at its winter meeting by a voice vote on Friday passed a “Resolution To Renounce The National Security Agency’s Surveillance Program” which said that “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 that “unwarranted government surveillance is an intrusion on basic human rights that threatens the very foundations of a democratic society and this program represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy and goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act.”

It then calls for the following actions. “[T]he Republican National Committee encourages Republican lawmakers to enact 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” and “calls upon Republican lawmakers to immediately take action to halt current unconstitutional surveillance programs and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s data collection programs.”

Yes, this is the Republican party that is sounding like it has been taken over by Edward Snowden and the ACLU. In fact, Nevada Committeewoman Diana Orrock, the person who introduced the resolution, explicitly said “I have to thank Edward Snowden for bringing forth the blatant trampling of our First and Fourth Amendment rights in the guise of security.”

But we have to remember that the Republican party strongly defended similar programs when George W. Bush was president while the Democrats were the ones then condemning them as violations of people’s privacy. Remember the Total Information Awareness program that caused an outcry when its existence was revealed in 2002? It was supposedly suspended in 2003 but more likely became part of the current NSA spying regimen. And when it was revealed in 2005 that the Bush administration was wiretapping Americans without warrants, the RNC at its winter meeting in 2006 strongly defended his actions.

So what is going on?

Each party clearly thinks that being on the side of people’s right to privacy is a winning issue for them in elections though they actually like it when they are the ones doing the spying. As is often the case in politics, judgments on good or bad depend upon whose ox is being gored. And so we go round and around.

But even allowing for that, this is a pretty strong statement from the RNC and I think it reflects the fact that even they realize that increasing numbers of people do not like these government information dragnets. And that is a good thing.

Comments

  1. AndrewD says

    Mano, I realise that this may seem cynical and I might be misjudging the Republicans but I suspect that the politics behind this is a fear of dirty tricks. If the party in power has access to the NSA capabilities it will be able to research and mount very effective dirty campaigns against their opponents. I suspect that if the political situation was reversed, the Republicans would be in favour of the NSA capabilities.

  2. badgersdaughter says

    I think it’s simpler even than that. Having got exactly what they wanted and more, they can now afford to pretend to be virtuous. A Victorian-era romance where a prostitute marries a Lordship springs to mind.

  3. Chiroptera says

    Yeah, the forces of darkness are only afraid of the NSAs capabilities because they aren’t the ones in power.

    On the other hand, as partisan as it is, if it is a reflection of a true fear of the Democratic President, then the good guys have an opportunity to work with them to get real reforms passed in Congress. At least until the forces of evil retake the White House.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    Remember the Total Information Awareness program that caused an outcry when its existence was revealed in 2002? It was supposedly suspended in 2003…

    Was it? I thought they just renamed it to carnivore or echelon or some such.
    Just like Blackwater.

  5. says

    I think they may have identified a place where they can make a populist wedge.

    The anger about the NSA surveillance domestically is real. The Republicans have never been opposed to racial or cultural profiling. If they can convince the public that they’d rein in the NSA’s general surveillance, and return them to a much more targeted mode, say, “general surveillance only of filthy Muslims and evil anti-corporate anarchists and gang members/Black Panthers and other terroristy types”, they may well have a populist issue that could rival the inequality-faff that the Democrats have lately been waking up to. They view the Democrat appeals to the fight against inequality as simple populist buying of votes. If they can find a way to compete for the vote-buying, and at the same time legitimize their xenophobic and racist views, they may see it as win-win.

    And betting against the white USan’s willingness to turn on the USan PoC is not a smart investment strategy.

  6. Kimpatsu says

    … of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law…
    And what about the rest of us? Does that mean the NSA continuing to spy on supposed allies like myself still fair game?

  7. Mano Singham says

    @Kimpatsu,

    Haven’t you figured it out yet? The world belongs to America, or rather to its rulers. Ordinary Americans have some rights. The rest of the world are mere tenants.

  8. lanir says

    Sorry if this sounds cynical but… Isn’t this still in roughly the same state as them admitting to themselves that they don’t want to alienate women? Which lasted for all of about a week before they decided that anti-abortion measures weren’t extreme nut-jobby enough and they needed to start passing anti-contraceptive measures as well?

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