Bush Era Republicans Denounce RNC’s NSA Criticism

The Daily Beast has acquired this letter from a group of former GOP intelligence officials to the Republican National Committee.

January 25, 2013

Reince Priebus
Republican National Committee
300 First Street, S.E.
Washington, D.C.  20003

Dear Chairman Priebus:

As Republicans who are familiar with the threat that terrorism still poses to this country, we are compelled to dissent from the ill-considered resolution adopted by the Republican National Committee on January 24 by voice vote.

The Republican National Committee plays a vital role in political campaigns, but it has relatively little expertise in national security.  Unfortunately, that lack of expertise is on full display in the resolution. The RNC condemns “the secret surveillance program called PRISM,” and claims that it “monitors [the] searching habits of virtually every American on the internet.”  In fact, there is no program that monitors the searches of all Americans.  And what has become known as the PRISM program is not aimed at collecting the communications of Americans. It is targeted at the international communications of foreign persons located outside the United States and is precisely the type of foreign-targeted surveillance that Congress approved in 2008 and 2012 when it enacted and reauthorized amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The errors in the resolution do not end there.  The resolution falsely implies that NSA collects and has easy access to telephone metadata, when in fact every search of the data requires a reasonable and articulable suspicion and is strictly limited by the courts, with oversight by the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress.

The resolution says that the program violates the Constitution, something that will come as news to the many judges who have found to the contrary – and to the Supreme Court, which has said that such limited billing data is not protected by a constitutional expectation of privacy.  The resolution’s claim that the program violates section 215 also runs counter to the rulings of practically every court to address the issue.

As far as we can tell, none of these facts was presented to the RNC before it adopted the resolution.  It is a shame that the resolution reached the Committee without correction of its many errors.

Worse, the RNC resolution threatens to do great damage to the security of the nation.  It would be foolhardy to end the program without ensuring that we remain safe from attack. This database provides a uniquely valuable capability for discovering new phone numbers associated with international terrorist organizations, including numbers that may be used by terrorist cells within the United States.  Former Deputy Director of the CIA Michael Morrell has testified that having this capability might have prevented 9/11 and could help to prevent the next 9/11.

This is not a Democratic or a Republican program.  Protecting Americans from terrorism should not be a partisan issue.   The program was first launched under President George W. Bush. It was approved by Congressional leaders of both parties. And for good reason.  It helps to keep Americans safe.

It may be appropriate to modify the program in certain respects, if that can be done without a significant loss in effectiveness, but abolishing it without any idea how to close the intelligence gap that 9/11 exposed is not a recipe for partisan advantage.  It is a recipe for partisan oblivion.

Count us out.


Mike Pompeo
United States House of Representatives

Michael B. Mukasey
Attorney General
Department of Justice

Michael Chertoff
Department of Homeland Security

Kenneth Wainstein
Homeland Security Adviser
Executive Office of the President

Eric S. Edelman
Under Secretary for Policy
Department of Defense

Michael V. Hayden
Central Intelligence Agency

Steven G. Bradbury
Head of the Office of Legal Counsel
Department of Justice

Stewart A. Baker
Assistant Secretary for Policy
Department of Homeland Security


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