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."