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

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.

Photo: Christopher Halloran /


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Forty years ago the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against "hostile environmental modification techniques...

The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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