Domestic surveillance, also known as mass surveillance, is a controversial issue in the US. There has always been an attempt by the government to monitor its citizens, but as technology becomes more complex, and particularly since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the government listening in on our conversations and looking for possible signs of illegal activity is a hot issue that is just going to grow as the government catches up with technology.
Not all Republicans are going to feel the same way about an issue, and domestic surveillance is no different. The Patriot Act, which was signed by Republican President George W. Bush back in 2001, was quite supported by Republicans at the time. However, many Republicans criticized President Barack Obama for NSA surveillance during his presidency. Here are some Republican viewpoints on mass surveillance.
Domestic Surveillance Protects Its Citizens
One Republican principle is the idea that the USA is always in danger and its citizens need protection. With terrorist attacks, mass shootings, and some citizens working for terrorist groups such as ISIS, the belief is that the government should try to stop these attacks before they happen. One way the government can do this is through spying on people they suspect may be planning an attack. This way of thinking was popular during the Bush administration. In 2005, George W. Bush admitted to spying on the citizens of the US, saying: “The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws to protect them and our civil liberties and that is exactly what I will continue to do.”
If You Don’t Have Anything to Hide, You Shouldn’t Worry
Another belief that some Republicans have about domestic surveillance is that you should not worry about being spied on if you are not doing anything illegal. The belief is that the government won’t interfere with you and will not care about your conversations unless you are doing something to rouse suspicion. In 2006, Mississippi Republican senator Trent Lott approved of the Bush surveillance plans, saying, “What are people worried about? What is the problem? Are you doing something you’re not supposed to?”
Some Believe It Violates The Constitution
One Republican viewpoint for many in the party is a strict interpretation of the Constitution. They believe that domestic surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment. For those who need a refreshment on the Fourth Amendment, it prohibits the government from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fourth Amendment says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” There are some who would say that this amendment applies to digital devices as well.
Recently, Rand Paul, a Republican Senator who represents Kentucky, criticized Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh for his belief that some mass surveillance techniques did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Kavanaugh is a Republican as well, so this illustrates the divide between Republicans on this issue.
As the Constitution is a document written in the 1700s, there are some Republicans who have interpreted what the definition of “search,” is, saying that the collection of data does not constitute a search. Kavanaugh is a Republican who has this mindset.
It Gives The Government Too Much Power
As mentioned before, Rand Paul does not approve of domestic surveillance. One reason for this is that Rand Paul has Libertarian leanings. Some Republicans subscribe to a limited government philosophy and stick to it. They believe that the government should not have the power to spy on their citizens, Constitution or not, and that it violates the personal liberty.
On his website, Paul goes into further details about his philosophy, saying “From your phone records, the government can discern the most intimate details of your life — whether you smoke, whether or not you own a gun, go to church, gamble, what books you read, what magazines you read, whether you see a psychiatrist, or what medications you take. This domestic NSA spying is simply not acceptable in a free society.”
Paul’s belief, as well as many other liberty-minded Republicans, is that domestic spying could be a slippery slope for the government to intrude on other aspects of your life, and it must be stopped.
Donald Trump On Domestic Surveillance
President Trump appears to be on the pro side of mass surveillance. Early in 2018, he signed a bill renewing the NSA’s Internet surveillance bill. There were some who called hypocrisy on Trump, who criticized Barack Obama for his NSA surveillance programs. However, Trump doubled down, saying “This is NOT the same FISA law that was so wrongly abused during the election.”
Later on in that year, Trump did condemn the NSA after they deleted unauthorized phone data that went back from 2015. “Wow! The NSA has deleted 685 million phone calls and text messages. Privacy violations?” he tweeted. However, Trump seemed to believe the deletion was in relation to the Mueller investigation.
A Divided Party
Mass surveillance is a divisive issue amongst the Republican party. You can find many opinions not only from the representatives, but from the general population as well. In 2014, a poll found that 56 percent of Republicans disapproved of NSA spying, while 41 percent approved.
Some Republicans are focused on their belief that the citizens of the US must be protected against terrorism, and that mass surveillance is necessary for the safety of the country. Other Republicans believe that the mass surveillance is a violation of the 4th amendment and that it gives the government too much power. This issue is divisive with Democrats as well, making it an issue that no one fully agrees or disagrees on. The opinions on the issue are bound to change with time and as technology evolves.
- Bush admits spying on America – The Guardian
- BellSouth denies giving records to NSA – CNN
- Fourth Amendment – U.S. Constitution – FindLaw
- Rand Paul threatens to filibuster long-term surveillance extension – The Hill
- Rand Paul Supports Ending NSA Spying – RandPaul.com
- Brett Kavanaugh’s defense of NSA phone surveillance looms as confirmation question – Washington Examiner
- Trump signs bill renewing NSA’s internet surveillance program – Reuters
- What Americans think about NSA surveillance, national security and privacy – FacTank
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- Rand Paul On The Issues
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