President Trump is hosting both critics and proponents of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act at the White House on Tuesday in an attempt to find common ground among his own party with several of FISA’s surveillance powers set to expire this month.
“There are lots of strong views about what should happen, so it’s time that everyone start talking among themselves to see if there’s any chance of unity among Republicans prior to March 15th,” a White House official told The Wall Street Journal. The meeting will include FISA-critics Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Rand Paul (R., Ky.), as well as attorney general William Barr, who told Republicans last week that they should fully reauthorize FISA absent major reforms.
Barr’s comments angered some Republicans, with both Trump allies and civil-liberties advocates supporting “significant reforms.”
“Given the tremendous abuses in 16-17, a clean reauthorization is totally unacceptable,” one House aide told National Review last week. House Republicans also sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi warning Democrats not to slip FISA reauthorization into a coronavirus budget bill.
While reports suggest that the White House is internally divided on FISA, Paul said last week that he had spoken to Trump, who “is urging FISA reform NOW.” Ahead of the meeting, Paul tweeted an ACLU article Monday titled “Barr Helped Build America’s Surveillance State.”
No surprise that A.G. Barr supports reauthorizing Patriot Act without legislative reforms. To protect all Americans from domestic surveillance we absolutely must block the FISA court from spying on Americans!
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 2, 2020
Lee also made his case ahead of the meeting, penning a Fox News op-ed in which he argued that “FISA must be reformed now.”
“While the threat of foreign espionage is very real, abuse of government’s surveillance powers is all too common,” Lee wrote. “. . . We believe that serious reform is necessary.”