RNC: We Hate the NSA, and Republican Lawmakers Should, Too

The Republican National Committee, in an olive branch to libertarian influences, adopted a resolution Friday calling on Republican lawmakers to more boldly fight to kill the NSA’s surveillance programs.

Faith and Freedom Coalition 2011, Reince Priebus
National Journal
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
Jan. 24, 2014, 10:46 a.m.

The week just keeps get­ting bet­ter for Ed­ward Snowden and his like-minded, anti-sur­veil­lance com­pat­ri­ots. The Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee passed a res­ol­u­tion Fri­day ur­ging Re­pub­lic­ans in Con­gress to pass le­gis­la­tion that would re­strict the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s sweep­ing data-col­lect­ing muscle.

The short, 500-word pro­clam­a­tion es­pouses sev­er­al liber­tari­an ideals be­fore ask­ing Re­pub­lic­an law­makers to form a spe­cial com­mit­tee to in­vest­ig­ate do­mest­ic sur­veil­lance prac­tices and “hold ac­count­able those pub­lic of­fi­cials who are found to be re­spons­ible for this un­con­sti­tu­tion­al sur­veil­lance.”

“The 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.”

The res­ol­u­tion bleeds with con­vic­tion, but also could sig­nal a liber­tari­an-lean­ing shift in the way Re­pub­lic­an op­er­at­ives hope to ap­peal to voters in com­ing elec­tions. RNC Chair­man Re­ince Priebus spoke Fri­day at the group’s winter meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton of the GOP’s need to “set a new stand­ard” and be more “con­scious of the tone” the party strikes on policy is­sues. While no doubt a re­sponse to Mike Hucka­bee’s re­marks Thursday that Demo­crats be­lieve “wo­men can’t con­trol their li­bidos,” Priebus and oth­er party lead­ers are look­ing broadly at ways to con­nect to an elect­or­ate they’re fre­quently charged with not be­ing in touch with.

The plat­form is sure to be seen as a boon for the liber­tari­an wing of the GOP and is likely a good sign for Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a po­ten­tial 2016 pres­id­en­tial hope­ful whose cri­ti­cisms of gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance have per­haps been un­rivaled since Snowden’s leaks began last June.

Rep. Jim Sensen­bren­ner, a Wis­con­sin Re­pub­lic­an, is the only law­maker to earn a namedrop in the res­ol­u­tion, which cites his con­dem­na­tion of the gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­pret­a­tion of Sec­tion 215 of the Pat­ri­ot Act as “an ab­use of the law.” Sensen­bren­ner au­thored the post-9/11 Pat­ri­ot Act, which he has re­peatedly said has been mis­in­ter­preted by both the Bush and Obama ad­min­is­tra­tions to jus­ti­fy ever-in­creas­ing col­lec­tion of data vis-a-vis Sec­tion 215’s defin­i­tion of re­cords “rel­ev­ant” to a ter­ror­ism in­vest­ig­a­tion.

He is now cham­pi­on­ing the Free­dom Act, which aims to re­duce bulk data col­lec­tion, in­stall a pub­lic ad­voc­ate in the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court, and lim­it Sec­tion 702 of the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act, a 2008 pro­vi­sion al­low­ing gov­ern­ment to col­lect In­ter­net com­mu­nic­a­tions from people be­lieved to be liv­ing out­side the United States.

The Pri­vacy and Civil Liber­ties Over­sight Board this week blas­ted the gov­ern­ment’s use of Sec­tion 215 for al­low­ing col­lec­tion of “in­form­a­tion without lim­it” and re­com­men­ded the NSA’s col­lec­tion of tele­phone metadata be ter­min­ated. Last week Obama out­lined a series of re­forms that would pre­serve the pro­gram but would take re­ten­tion of the data out of the hands of the gov­ern­ment and place it in­stead with private phone com­pan­ies or some still-un­defined third-party en­tity.

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