By Ruth Conniff
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In an amazing turn of events, the Republican National Committee (RNC) passed a resolution on Friday calling for a thorough investigation of the NSA's dragnet surveillance program and demanding that the officials who created it be held to account.
The NSA's surveillance program was created by Republicans in the Bush Administration after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Republicans have spent the ensuing years sternly defending it against Democratic critics.
The resolution (PDF) also calls for significant changes to the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act -- two other Republican brainchilds -- with the goal of making clear that the NSA's blanket surveillance program "is prohibited by law." It also urges Republican lawmakers to launch a special investigative committee to "reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying" and make recommendations for reforms.
In the resolution's most shocking paragraph, the RNC adds that this investigative committee must also "hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance." It does not say which officials should be held accountable or what measures would be taken against them.
The document was introduced by Nevada Committeewoman Diana Orrock, a supporter of the libertarian-leaning Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
"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 told MSNBC. "Something had to be said. Something had to be done."
The 180-degree shift in the party's sentiment about the spying program that its own officials created is a remarkable example of just how intense infighting between the party's libertarian-leaning wing and Republican leadership has become.
Just seven years ago, the GOP was agog that Democrats would suggest rolling back what the Bush Administration called its "Terrorist Surveillance Program." Today, all mentions of the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" have been stripped from GOP.com.
President Bush was a particularly outspoken supporter of the NSA dragnet, and repeatedly insisted for years that it is legal and must continue.
Bush was still taking credit for implementing the program as recently as July 2013, when he sat for an interview with CNN's Robyn Curnow to discuss revelations by Snowden.
"I put the program in place to protect the country," he said. "And one of the certainties is that civil liberties were guaranteed."
The program was declared illegal earlier this week by a federal oversight committee created by the 9/11 Commission, which cited the NSA dragnet for infringing upon civil liberties and producing virtually no useful intelligence on terrorist plots.
Despite previously opposing mass surveillance and calling for reforms to the USA PATRIOT Act, President Obama has largely adopted Bush's stance on both.
While he recently called for some limited reforms to the agency's surveillance methods, Obama left the surveillance dragnet in place and defended its legality.