Data collection issue is a bipartisan failure

The following letter to the editor was published in the Waconia Patriot June 20, 2013:

To the editor:

It’s fascinating to read the complaints of Carver County Republican Executive Committee members Vince Beaudette and Joe Polunc from last week’s edition regarding the data collection being performed by the National Security Agency (NSA).

I share their concern about what appears to be an overly broad collection of personal data by the federal government.

However, their finger-pointing at the Obama Administration ignores the fact that their Republican Party played a key role in the creation of such programs. This was a bipartisan failure, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is not telling you the truth.

First off, let’s remember that the NSA’s collection of phone metadata actually began shortly after 9/11 and took its current form in 2006. The PRISM program in its current form originated in 2007. Where were Beaudette and Polunc when the Bush Administration was engaging in these tactics?

Their objections now seem politically convenient, especially given the fact that collection of phone metadata by the NSA has been publicized in several mainstream media outlets going back to 2006.

Second, since 2001 there have been five key votes in Congress that have given legal authorization to these programs.

Republicans in the United States Senate have voted a combined 237-5 in favor of legally authorizing these programs.

In the House, Carver County’s Republican U.S. Representatives Erik Paulsen and Michele Bachmann have also cast multiple votes for the legislation that authorized these programs.

In the votes where both Bachmann and Paulsen have been in Congress, House Republicans have voted a combined 437-34 in favor of legally authorizing these programs. Yet Beaudette and Polunc offer no criticism for Paulsen and Bachmann’s role in the authorization of such data collection.

Finally, let’s also point out that Beaudette and Polunc offer no alternative path.

Do they propose that the NSA stop this data collection completely, even though Congressional officials and military officers say they are valuable to national security? What would Beaudette and Polunc suggest the government do differently? We don’t know. Typical of Republican rhetoric these days, they are long on complaints, but short on solutions.

The reality is that both parties have failed on us this issue, and as citizens, we need to work together to pressure our elected officials — Republican and Democrat alike — to strike the appropriate balance between liberty and security. Let’s take off the partisan hats and put on our American hats for a change.

Sean Olsen