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Republicans discover their NSA fears
Remember when the RNC celebrated expansive NSA surveillance during the Bush era? Well, forget it, the party has changed its mind.
By Steve Benen
But as Benjy Sarlin reports today, the Republican National Committee added to this list in rather dramatic fashion at their winter meeting.
In a jarring break from the George W. Bush era, the Republican National Committee voted Friday to adopt a resolution demanding an investigation into the National Security Agency's spy programs. According to the resolution, the NSA metadata program revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is deemed "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." In addition, "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."
Nevada Committeewoman Diana Orrock, who introduced the resolution, told Sarlin, "I have to thank Edward Snowden for bringing forth the blatant trampling of our First and Fourth Amendment rights in the guise of security," she said. "Something had to be said. Something had to be done."
And when the RNC voted today, how many members objected or called for additional debate? None.
As a substantive matter, the RNC's position is obviously defensible. Indeed, the party's resolution, as adopted today, would probably generate quite a bit of support from liberals and many Democrats.
But that doesn't change the fact that as Republican reversals go, this one's a doozy.
During the Bush/Cheney era, Republican support for expansive surveillance and a sprawling national-security state was practically unanimous. This was the party of the PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretaps, and a new FISA law that delivered broad, discretionary powers to the executive branch. Sarlin report added:
When the New York Times revealed that the NSA had wiretapped American citizens without warrants in late 2005, the RNC used their 2006 winter meeting to strongly defend the program's national security value. "Do Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean really think that when the NSA is listening in on terrorists planning attacks on America, they need to hang up when those terrorists dial their sleeper cells inside the United States?" Ken Mehlman, then RNC chair, told the RNC gathering in his keynote speech at the time.
Even at the time, many on the left were asking Republicans, "Would you feel the same way under a Democratic president?" It wasn't a question the right wanted to consider, so they didn't.
Until now, that is. And now, all of a sudden, Republican National Committee members have no use for the same surveillance programs they once embraced.