Surprise: Republican Party Says NSA Surveillance Programs Are Unconstitutional And Must End

from the didn't-see-that-coming dept

As we’ve noted many times in the past, unlike most sites that cover politicians, we have a policy in which we don’t name the party of a politician unless that point is key to the story. We’ve found that this leads to a more intellectually fulfilling discussion, where people focus more on the ideas and statements, rather than reverting automatically to stereotypes, pro or con, about a particular political party. However, there are times when the party affiliation is a key part of the story, and this is clearly one of those: the Republican National Committee, basically the party’s leadership, has passed a resolution condemning the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records and explicitly declaring the program a violation of the 4th Amendment. This is somewhat surprising on multiple levels, not the least of which is that the Republican party, historically, has tended to be much more supportive of the surveillance state. And yet, during the RNC’s meeting, not a single member spoke against the following resolution, which then passed with an “overwhelming majority” during the voice vote:

Resolution to Renounce the National Security Agency’s Surveillance Program

WHEREAS, the secret surveillance program called PRISM targets, among other things, the surveillance of U.S. citizens on a vast scale and monitors searching habits of virtually every American on the internet;

WHEREAS, this dragnet program is, as far as we know, the largest surveillance effort ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens, consisting of the mass acquisition of Americans’ call details encompassing all wireless and landline subscribers of the country’s three largest phone companies;

WHEREAS, every time an American citizen makes a phone call, the NSA gets a record of the location, the number called, the time of the call and the length of the conversation, all of which are 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;

WHEREAS, 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, which guarantees the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, that warrants shall issue only upon probable cause, and generally prevents the American government from issuing modern-day writs of assistance;

WHEREAS, 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; and

WHEREAS, Republican House Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, an author of the Patriot Act and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee at the time of Section 215′s passage, called the Section 215 surveillance program “an abuse of that law,” writing that, “based on the scope of the released order, both the administration and the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court are relying on an unbounded interpretation of the act that Congress never intended,” therefore be it

RESOLVED, 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;

RESOLVED, the Republican National Committee encourages Republican lawmakers to call 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 ot end unconstitutional surveillance as well as hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance; and

RESOLVED, the Republican National Committee encourages Republican lawmakers to immediately take action to halt current unconstitutional surveillance programs and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s date collection programs.

Note that they’re not just talking about the Section 215 bulk collection program, but also name PRISM — which is under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act — as being problematic (though, most of the resolution does focus on the Section 215 program).

We had mentioned, just recently, that it appeared strictly partisan folks had a tendency to flip positions on surveillance based on whether or not “their guy” was in power, so to some extent this can be seen as a pushback on the fact that there’s a Democratic President — but this is still a huge shift for this to basically be the position of the entire Republican Party. No longer can people claim that it’s just the “fringe element” that is arguing for these things or the outlier “libertarian wing.”

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Comments on “Surprise: Republican Party Says NSA Surveillance Programs Are Unconstitutional And Must End”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Interesting...

Pretty much sums it up.

I fully expect that most of the Republicans being talked about as possible presidential candidates would secretly have the NSA start doing the exact same things all over again. Because you know, you don’t want to be blamed for a terrorist attack when your office, that’s why so many politicians of both sides are such blind supporters of almost anything the NSA does.

David says:

Re: Re: Interesting...

Yup. They are just doing a reverse Obama here. Should they win the next round of election tag game, it’s again up to a Democrat candidate to state that the Constitution is great enough to consider heeding it as long as one is not in office yet.

As long as nobody gets held responsible for them, pre-election promises are just a means for turning democracy into gameplay.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Wow...

You didn’t? It was kind of obvious if you’ve been following politics since about the Clinton administration or so. The Obama administration is sticking up for this program, therefore Republicans have a solemn duty to condemn it. It really is that simple. I’m just a bit surprised it’s taken them this long to get around to it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s a policy I like as well.

I’ve generally been a lifelong democrat. But, I personally revile both parties equally. Liars and crooks, nearly the entire lot.

Few have anywhere close to the American people’s best interest at heart. They do whatever gets them the most money and keeps them in power.

Me says:


I said it before but the DNC has made a HUGE miscalculation not to take this issue out of the hands of a lying administration. I am a life-long Democrat, voted straight ticket for 25 years and I will NEVER donate to or vote of a Democrat politician on any level again.

I was a Democrat because I believe in the liberal ideals of fair play, equal opportunity for all and the important of freedom and liberty of every individual. This administration has made clear that it values *other* things than I do, and since the DNC has decided to go along for the ride, they can both ride that wagon to hell.

Me says:

Re: Re: DNC

Agree on Wyden and Udall, but I note they aren’t my Senators and the national DNC treats them as irrelevant. I have repeatedly written, emailed and called my local, state and national DNC reps and they’ve ignored this issue. I got one form letter back that just trumpeted how important the NSA programs were, but all that demonstrated was they didn’t “get” the issue.

LVDave (profile) says:


@Me .. I believe you’d be what would be described as a “JFK Democrat”.. Your party has been stolen and turned into a branch of the American Communist Party.. Not to mention its picked up a bunch of Republicans along the way, you might remember them as RINOs.. I’m wondering if its too late to fix this mess, or if there’s enough Americans who are not still in love with this asshole in the White house to pull our balls out of the fire, as it were.. All this shithole has to do is snap his fingers and voila! Martial law, and America as we knew it is dead…

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m actually surprised it took them this long. Consider this: Think back to 2012. There was one single political issue that actually got the attention of the public, both in the USA and worldwide, in a big way… and both parties essentially ignored it during the election. Remember what it was?

SOPA. ACTA. Internet freedom. The abuses that Barack Obama (and even more than him, Joe Biden) have been pushing to expand at every opportunity.

If the Republicans had actually caught onto that and campaigned accordingly, today we’d almost certainly be reading about the DNC’s new resolution condemning the current administration’s support for the NSA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not to start a political debate but this looks like another attempt to slap down Obama and Dems in general.
I honestly would not expect this from the Republicans. I’m sure they would like to abuse the power just as much as Obama has for 6 years…so part of me is thinking that the Republicans may have realized they have a snowballs chance in hell of ever gaining the Presidency again and decided to cut off the Democrats advantage.
note…I’m a conservative so I would probably swing Republican but even I have problems with the lack of plan, leadership or end goal the Republicans seem to have.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Of course it is. They are now condemning a program that they were overwhelmingly in favor of when bush was in office.

This is just part of their whole “if Obama is for it, we must oppose it” schtick, not because of any actual principled stance. Nonetheless, this time it’s working in favor of freedom and liberty for once. We should be pleased.

Anonymous Coward says:


I’ve been looking around for info regarding this but haven’t found it yet, which is odd because I could have sworn I’d seen it before:

When was the secret interpretation of Section 215 created and acted upon? Was it right in 2001 when the PATRIOT Act was enacted? Sensenbrenner’s comments seem to indicate that at least initially it wasn’t misinterpreted so wildly but maybe I’m naively optimistic on that front.

I know it was renewed in July (and 05 and 06 before that, correct?) but I want to know when the first abuses likely occurred, as far as anyone can tell.


Mike Masnick (profile) says:


When was the secret interpretation of Section 215 created and acted upon? Was it right in 2001 when the PATRIOT Act was enacted? Sensenbrenner’s comments seem to indicate that at least initially it wasn’t misinterpreted so wildly but maybe I’m naively optimistic on that front.

The bulk collection of phone records under the FISA Court was first approved in May of 2006. From 2001 until 2006 it was done under presidential authorizations. So, realistically, the FISA Court technically “began” approving this in 2006, though they didn’t explain the reasoning until 2013.

out_of_the_blue says:

Yeah, but the "position" is to SAY, NOT DO.

After what, seven months they see how public sentiment goes? This isn’t surprising. Just typical PR. You’d think that a blog which covers politicians would pass on this as self-serving trivia.

I’m keeping the bubbly capped. Today that’s IBC Root Beer, which I drink ’cause it’s good for my root. (Old, old, joke.)

By strange coincidence, this just happens to be top of left column links on Drudge Report. It’s continuing mystery how re-writing with huge block quote (well, plus here needless outline of “editorial policy”) gets anyone here.

Where Mike sez: “Any system that involves spying on the activities of users is going to be a non-starter. Creeping the hell out of people isn’t a way of encouraging them to buy. It’s a way of encouraging them to want nothing to do with you.” — So why doesn’t that apply to The Google?


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well it is a mixed bag at best:
First resolve is basically gonna get slammed on account of it being impossible to exclude americans specifically. I doubt they will be able to withstand the NSA pressure for watering it down to basically nothing. Also “make it clear” is very vague politically.

Second resolve seems entirely political. It is a bold sacrifice with a confidence that democrats will suffer way more from this than republicans. It will get watered down, but it is so strong right now that it would be an atomic bomb under many US politicians carreers.

Third resolve is very interesting since it is almost a call for breaking confidenciality. I don’t see it as necessarily political in its nature and asking for another potential lockdown of US politics is bold from a party who lost a lot of sympathy when they did what seems to have been the same thing to Obamacare. I think they have a much better case here!

This is a sign of many republican grassroots revolting but having it effect actual policy in congress is an entirely different matter.Throwing King and Rogers to the sharks seems too unlikely for this to get backed by actions, but we will have to wait and see.

Anonymous Coward says:

Two things...

They don’t really believe this position. They believe taking this position is a means to regain (or at least not lose more) power. It’s just like SOPA. They were all for it until it became politically toxic to be in support of it. Now that supporting the NSA’s bulk collection is politically toxic, they are against it. If Obama continues to defend it, then that’s a bonus for them as they can use it against him and the other Democrats that support it.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s interesting that the number of comments condemning this as a cynical maneuver designed to simply oppose whatever Obama is doing substantially outnumber the number of comments praising this as a (small) step in the right direction. The hate for the GOP is pretty strong here.

To date, neither party has been terribly protective about civil liberties post 9-11. Bush and Obama are both pretty squarely responsible for these programs. Democrats seem a little more invested in the idea of themselves as protectors of civil liberties, but there’s similar rhetoric in Republican campaigning. So far, however, neither party has really done much to curb these sorts of power grabs.

I’m hardly inclined to think of this as a major victory, but it certainly seems to be something to be encouraged by, rather than discouraged. The language could have been weak or given a lot of wiggle room, but instead it is quite clear and pretty strong. It’s the first indication I’ve seen that this issue had real traction and staying power within either party.

It’s also a nice reminder that Sensenbrenner, for all his prior assertions that people were crazy to fear the Patriot Act, seemed legitimately upset to find out how 215 was being used. It’s strangely encouraging to learn that the author of the Patriot Act actually believed that it imposed important and meaningful limits on the powers granted.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The hate for the GOP is pretty strong here.

It’s not hate at all. It’s a combination of three things: GOP leaders have repeatedly and publicly said that they oppose anything that Obama is in favor of, the actions of the GOP have bee entirely consistent with this, and the vast majority of the Republican Party thought this stuff was A-OK before Obama was in office.

It’s simple logic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Exactly. If they want to convince me that they are really against this, then they should be calling for an investigation and possible indictment of the officials in charge of the NSA. Oh wait, they only do that if it’s someone from the other party that got there winky wacked and there is no evidence about to suggest that Clapper or Alexander have been getting blowjobs from anyone except possibly Mike Rogers, Peter King, Diane Feinstein and their corporate military contractor masters. So that won’t happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Seriously. Think about it. How much taxpayer money did the GOP waste having Clinton impeached over him getting a blowjob then lying about it which had absolutely zero effect on the lives of the American public, yet when the officials in charge of the Intelligence apparatus get caught abusing the rights of pretty much every American citizen in violation of the Constitution then lying about it to Congress, the best they can do is call for the end of those programs? Hello? WTF did you do with Ken Starr? Why aren’t you sending him to chase down every sordid detail about Clapper and Alexander? Misplaced priorities much?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

And for the record, in case people misinterpret this to think that I’m for the Democrats and was a huge Clinton fan. At the time, I faulted him for not having the balls to tell them to butt the fuck out of his personal life and instead entering into a semantic argument over the definition of the word “is.”

Jerrymiah (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Here the answer you’re looking for it’s in Resolve 2

RESOLVED, the Republican National Committee encourages Republican lawmakers to call 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 ot end unconstitutional surveillance as well as hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance;

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Window dressing is what that is. If they really meant it, they wouldn’t say “as well as hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible”. Everyone knows who needs to be held accountable. If they were serious, they would be calling for those people directly to be held accountable. They desperately want to imply that Obama is the one that “should be held accountable” and he should but not for creating these programs but rather not ending them like he promised. You didn’t see that kind of wishy washy language when they found out Clinton got a blowjob. No sir, they found the biggest pit bull they could and said “Go get your dinner.”

AricTheRed says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“…no evidence about to suggest that Clapper or Alexander have been getting blowjobs from anyone except possibly Mike Rogers, Peter King, Diane Feinstein and their corporate military contractor masters.”

Now I know this comment I’m about to lay down is not exactly a point that is salient to the discussion at hand, but…

How horrible a thought that any person might get, let-alone want, want a, super sloppy, enthusiastic, cup the balls, BJ from Dianne “I’ve got a California Concealed Carry Permit cause I’m special and “Scarry People” hate me” Feinstein

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

substantially outnumber the number of comments praising this as a (small) step in the right direction. The hate for the GOP is pretty strong here.

You seem to lack the understanding that the complaints are nor GOP “hate” but poorly expressed acknowledgement other than 1 poster that this is a non-binding resolution and is really just meaningless posturing by a party that supported these programs before this announcement.

But a wilful lack of understanding is typical when it comes to politics.

Rather than ‘encourage’ why not demand that they deliver what they claim to stand for VS this handwaving bull.

David says:

Re: Re:

Of course not. Snowden is a traitor, worse than all those making fun and profit of the constitution. There is an excellent reason for Snowden being a traitor or people would not consider him so. Nobody can’t quite remember it, but you would not want to be unpatriotic, would you?

I mean, all the intelligence people who really know a lot more than they let on say that they want him tortured and killed and what not else.

They are all honorable men, and if they say that Snowden was ambitious, why who would want to disagree with them?

Dara (user link) says:

Utter horseshit

Complete, total, and utter horseshit. No, I mean it, it is. It is exactly zero more than branding, and a severe mistake even to consider that it might be anything else.

Perhaps you do not remember the 90s, when they were using events such as Waco and Ruby Ridge as their anti-government-overreach hobbyhorses. That was in the platform, too, yet another plank they abandoned or reversed the instant they took power.

In short: horseshit, and the only way to believe it is to be either a fool who refuses to learn from history, or someone who is utterly ignorant of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Utter horseshit

Of course it’s horseshit, but it’s USEFUL horseshit in the same way fertilizer is. 95% of the American populace dines on horseshit daily, if they happen to receive a particularly nutritious course, so much the better.

Regardless of the motivation, the words were spoken and they are good words. Don’t discard the baby with the bathwater.

David says:

Re: Re: Utter horseshit

Regardless of the motivation, the words were spoken and they are good words. Don’t discard the baby with the bathwater.

The U.S.A. needs a tradition of citizens shooting at politicians that do open U-turns on campaign promises.

Even if just 5% of the shots hit home, it would start making them think twice about their openly cynical ways.

Perhaps that’s the idea behind Al Kaida. If it is, it has backfired. Too bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

how timely that this has come out just after the announcement that ‘the White House refuses to accept that NSA phone dragnet is illegal.’

then, according to Eric Holder, not that he’s creep arsing, of course, ‘At least 15 judges on about 35 occasions have said that the program itself is legal,? Holder said. ?I think that those other judges, those 15 judges, got it right.?’

then consider that not just these but everyone totally ignored what was going on, even though there were a lot of people who knew about it, but because no one had had the balls to make the public aware of what it’s own government was doing, which because of the technology, is a hell of a lot worse than was happening 70+years ago and led to WWII and the murder of so many people, no one cared! apart from one person who has now been labelled a traitor and who has no country, who has lost everything and still has multiple people slagging him off and some even calling for him to be killed! then remember that these are the same people who were running these illegal surveillance and were supposed to have been doing so for the good of the nation and it’s citizens! believe that and you’ll believe anything!

i still fail to understand how anyone, let alone the President of a nation can agree to what has been going on and still claim that nation is a Democracy! after being elected to this position, he has basically told the people fuck you. i’m doing what i want, not what i told you i’ll do or what you want or what you entrusted me to do on your behalf! rather a long way from a democracy, if you ask me!!

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Yet another checkmark...

…in the column that describes the reasons to get rid of political parties altogether. Such egregious pandering to the electorates’ votes should be a Fourth of July display warning of the toadyism that pervades politics in its current form.

Get rid of the parties, get rid of corporate/group political speech, and get rid of the money in politics. Then we won’t be subjected to such outrageously self serving drivel.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Yet another checkmark...

You’d just end up with political positition blocs, like they have in those countries where proportional representation is practised. The result is government by coalition and political cronyism. In other words, same song, different dance, and the illusion of proper representation.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

Whatever gets them elected

Nice piece of paper they got there, isn’t it?

You see, the elections are coming and they don’t want to be caught seeming to be on the wrong side of the room when it comes to this issue.

It don’t mean shit, because as soon as the furor dies down, they’ll state that they’ve changed their minds and that we can all relax. “Whoops, we were just kidding!”

Then it’ll be back to business as usual. They’re just trying to buy time and votes by appearing to be outraged by the whole thing, but voting for continuing funding for the programs in secret.

Oh, didn’t you know they’re funded by the same people who have been supplying the NSA with all that nifty equipment and stuff like data (Verizon has lots of money).

Funny about that.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Whatever gets them elected

Exactly so, words are nice but ultimately empty, it’s actions that count, so if they are really concerned enough as a party to put together something like this, let’s see it reflected in the votes when the various bills to reign in the NSA hit the floors.

If they match action to word, and vote wholesale for bills designed to limit the NSA and bring it back under control, then I might believe they actually agree that it’s a problem, and not just some cheap, empty tactic to impress the voters.

David says:

Re: Re: Whatever gets them elected

So far the best bet the American public has for getting the surveillance back into constitutional control is to vote for Snowden next election. I mean, it’s all nice not to “waste” your vote and vote for the “lesser evil” of two evil twins, but it’s time to realize that there is no lesser evil of the two so you are not wasting anything if you vote something else.

And Snowden at least stands for honesty, reform, and the U.S. constitution. Never mind that he’s not running. Never mind that he’ll probably not manage coming back and staying alive for two months before some “patriot” like Hayden will organize his assassination, possibly by a “mentally deranged person”.

At some point of time, you need to take your chances and face a few setbacks.

Pragmatic says:

I DID say they were planning to pin the whole surveillance state thing on Obama as a ploy for the mid terms, didn’t I? It’s in the National Journal. Watch out for dead-end efforts to impeach the president, Benghazi-style, followed by frantic back-pedaling as they realize how deep Rep. King et al are in.

Basically, it’s business as usual. Nothing to see here, move along.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Of course it's unconstitutional

Do anything about it….

But they are doing something about it!!

They have their PR specialist, Barrack Obama appearing on TV regularly to try and convince everyone its no big deal and he’s handling it.

They have created a second set of laws to insure that if caught, they can claim its all legal.

They have their own hand-picked Over-sight committee to rubber stamp all their operations and give them a veneer of proper over-sight.

And most importantly, they’re attacking secretly anyone who might threaten their continuing operations.

How can you possibly say they’re doing nothing about it??

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