ITHACA, N.Y. — Congress has only a few legislative days to renew or amend several surveillance programs, leaving lawmakers and the White House in limbo over how to proceed.

This Sunday, March 15, three key surveillance programs under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will lapse, but efforts to renew the program largely stalled in the last few weeks as members of Congress try to work out a deal as the deadline looms. The provisions in question largely revolve around the process giving spy agencies authorization to “wiretap” and spy on American citizens.

Some Republicans and Democrats are pressing leadership to hold back on a “clean” renewal of the existing legislation in favor of placing more barriers on the programs to protect individual privacy. According to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the Republicans spearheading an amendment to the program, President Donald Trump would be in favor of additional restrictions on FISA.

Ithaca Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) hasn’t indicated a firm position on the matter, which is likely to come up for a vote in some fashion next week according to guidance from the House Majority Leader’s office.

“We should never forget the lessons of 9/11 and do everything possible to keep the people we care about safe. However, as the FISA renewal process comes before us we must protect American civil liberties,” Reed said in a statement to the Ithaca Voice.

The programs have been steeped in controversy since the Russia investigation and have been widely criticized by President Trump who believes they were misused. Democrats widely disagree, pointing to a Department of Justice Inspector General’s report released in December 2019.

“The predicate for the FBI’s investigation was valid and without political bias,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters saying the President was pushing conspiracy theories about the FISA program.

The FISA program was created in the wake of the Watergate scandal in order to place more restrictions to reel in wiretaps from several U.S. spy agencies.

Vaughn Golden

Vaughn Golden is a freelance radio and print reporter covering politics around the southern tier and central New York. He authors the weekly "Capitol Watch" watchdog report on Ithaca's representatives...