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Republicans vote to end NSA bulk phone metadata surveillance program

The Republican National Committee has passed a resolution pushing conservative lawmakers to put an end to the National Security Agency’s blanket surveillance of American citizens’ phone records.

The resolution also calls for an investigation of the NSA’s  metadata collection practices, which it labeled a “gross  infringement” of the rights of US citizens. Under Section  215 of the Patriot Act, the NSA has been authorized to collect  and store the records of nearly all domestic phone calls – the  phone numbers involved and duration of the calls, but not the  content of the conversations themselves.

Specifically, the RNC will push Republican lawmakers to pass  amendments to Section 215 stating 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 also adds that “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.”

While Republicans have generally been split on their reaction to  the NSA’s spying programs – libertarian-leaning lawmakers have  been more critical of the NSA than national security “hawks” –   Time reported that no RNC members spoke out against the new  resolution when it came up for a voice vote. It reportedly passed  with an “overwhelming majority.”

Exactly how lawmakers will receive this new resolution remains  unclear. Despite the apparent widespread support within the RNC  to reign in the NSA, the party’s Republican legislators are not  obligated to vote according to these suggestions.
Still, the move reflects growing unease concerning the NSA’s  practices within the conservative movement and will undoubtedly  be embraced by civil liberties advocates who have called for an  overhaul of the surveillance program ever since former NSA  contractor Edward Snowden began leaking details about the  agency’s behavior to the press.
Last week, President Barack Obama announced reforms of his own regarding the  surveillance efforts while simultaneously defending the program  as necessary. He stated that going forward, government officials  will need to obtain a court order to access the archive of data  collected by the NSA. Though Obama did not say who would be in  charge of overseeing the archive, he called on Congress,  intelligence officials, and Attorney General Eric Holder to take  the next steps.
“I believe we need a new approach,” Obama said. “I  am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215  bulk metadata collection program as it currently exists, and  establishes a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need  without the government holding this bulk metadata.”
While Obama’s proposals were welcomed, some civil liberties  groups – such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Human  Rights Watch – stated that he did not go far enough, offering  only “vague assurance” that the government would not  abuse its powers.


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