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.