The winter meeting for the Republican National Committee closed with one huge surprise for the American public: the RNC denounced the NSA’s surveillance program and adopted a resolution that demands further investigation. This is a massive turnaround from the Bush Era, when Republicans seemed to wholeheartedly support the idea of surveillance.
In 2005, the New York Times revealed that the NSA had been tapping into Americans’ phone lines without warrants, with the claim that the surveillance was for the protection of citizens and the prevention of terrorism. Just a few years after 9/11, this was a huge source of fear for many Americans, and for Washington, too.
“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?” asked Ken Mehlman, former RNC Chair, at the 2006 winter meeting.
But the NSA surveillance program revealed by Edward Snowden last spring brought up new issues of constitutionality and Americans’ right to privacy. Rather than being seen as a prevention of future terrorist attacks, the data being gathered by the NSA has many Americans feeling like their rights are being violated, Republicans included.
“I have to thank Edward Snowden for bringing forth the blatant trampling of our First and Fourth Amendment rights in the guise of security,” said Diana Orrock, Nevada Committeewoman in a phone interview with MSNBC. “Something had to be said. Something had to be done.”
The RNC, which feels that the surveillance violates the “permissive limits set by the Patriot Act,” unanimously adopted a resolution for further investigation into the NSA program, which it believes is “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 to the violation of the First amendment, the RNC says, “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.”