Republican National Committee Condemns NSA Spying, Hell Freezes Over

So this happened today and we’re officially through the looking glass.

The Republican National Committee passed a resolution Friday renouncing “unconstitutional” National Security Agency surveillance programs.

The resolution, affirmed by a voice vote at the GOP’s winter meeting, was a remarkable move from many of the same party activists who vigorously defended controversial surveillance programs during George W. Bush’s administration.

Um. Yeah.

Let’s rewind several years to 2001 through 2008 when Congress and the Bush administration passed the USA PATRIOT Act, the Protect America Act, and eventually the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. I seem to recall how the Republican establishment lined up behind the Bush administration’s efforts to circumvent the FISA Court, and spent years both scaring Americans while shaming Democrats over any and all resistance to codifying the administration’s obvious surveillance overreach.

Let’s take a look back at some history, shall we? I’m old enough to remember these quotes:

“You have no civil liberties if you are dead.” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS).

“None of your civil liberties matter much after you’re dead.” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

“Our civil liberties are worthless if we are dead! If you are dead and pushing up daisies, if you’re sucking dirt inside a casket, do you know what your civil liberties are worth? Zilch, zero, nada.” Rush Limbaugh.

Speaking of Limbaugh…

On August 15, 2007, Limbaugh said, “[Then Senator Hillary Clinton] opposed the FISA reforms that would allow us to listen into communications and see the communications of international terrorists who are communicating with other international terrorists, even outside the country whose messages simply happened to flow through US telecom networks. You know, again, I’m a little bit surprised that somebody with a record so weak on these things would somehow deign to lecture this president.”

On February 29, 2008, Limbaugh said, “Nancy Pelosi is refusing a vote on the new security bill, the new FISA bill. They still, the Democrats, when it comes to national security, the defense, the protection of this country, I don’t care who our candidate is, they cannot be trusted with it, the Democrats cannot.”

On July 10, 2008, Limbaugh said, “Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, the Democrat Party, have tried to undermine the FISA court, they’ve tried to undermine the FISA bill, they have stood in the way every time it’s come up for a vote, though, after all the huff and puff that they do, they eventually pass it.”

Who else among the GOP is a Johnny-come-lately Greenwald civil libertarian?

Back in June when the Snowden story first broke, Joe Scarborough, during an interview with Glenn Greenwald, referred to NSA as “excessive” and “expansive,” even though Scarborough has been one of the most vocal supporters of the use of waterboarding and so forth as an interrogation method, going so far as to shout down guests on his MSNBC show.

Shortly after the first Snowden articles were published, Bill O’Reilly lashed out at NSA, referring to the PRISM operation as “unconstitutional.”

But here was O’Reilly in 2006 praising warrantless eavesdropping with Newt Gingrich as revelations about the Bush’s circumvention of the FISA Court came to light:

O’REILLY: Well, the ACLU doesn’t want that, but here’s my argument. And this is a winner all day long. The wiretap laws are set up to prevent criminal — criminal abuses, investigating criminal cases. This is a military matter. It’s a military matter.


O’REILLY: You can intercept anything you want, any kind of communication you want without a warrant in a war. And that’s it. And that’s what they should do.

O’Reilly was ballyhooing the idea that within the boundries of the war on terrorism, the military could do anything it wants to do.

What about Glenn Beck? In June and since then, he’s called Edward Snowden a “hero” and tweeted, “I think I have just read about the man for which I have waited. Earmarks of a real hero.” And, “The NSA patriot leader is just another chance for America to regain her moral compass and set things right. No red or blue. Just truth.”

Rewind to February, 2008, when Beck passionately demanded that the Protect America Act, which codified warrantless eavesdropping, be renewed immediately:

Now, after 9-11, you remember we came up with all kinds of new — aggressive new laws to combat a new kind of enemy. One of them was the Patriot Act. Another one was the Protection — Protect America Act. This was an extension of our eavesdropping. It helped our government listen in and find terrorists.

Well, over the weekend, the House failed to pass this bill, which would have prevented the Protect America Act from lapsing — an extension requested by the president. It’s got a six-month sunset over and over again. He feels — and I happen to agree with him — that this congressional game-playing by Nancy Pelosi will end up killing Americans.

Any Democrats who opposed the eavesdropping were responsible for potentially killing Americans!

Here’s just one of the videos produced by the Republican Party as a means of scaring the piss out of the American people during the early 2008 fight to renew the warrantless eavesdropping codified in the Protect America Act:

It was the GOP establishment and its spokesmen in the media that created the USA PATRIOT Act, the Protect America Act and the FISA Amendments of 2008, which included Section 702 and PRISM.

However, the passage of the FISA Amendments Act also rolled back warrantless surveillance and managed to curtail what had been so offensive prior to it. For many of us, that was the hinge upon which support or criticism of NSA swung. Prior to that, however, we were well aware of how the telecoms supplied metadata to NSA (without FISA oversight post-9/11). We knew about undersea cable taps. Later, we would learn about PRISM. We knew about much of what NSA was doing because of countless articles and books on the topic.

But what changed for the GOP? After all, NSA operations are tamer now than they were pre-FISA Amendments Act. Look no further than January 20, 2009.

Bob Cesca is the host of the Bob Cesca Show podcast, a twice weekly political talk show. He’s also a contributor to Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.