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
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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