'Sweeping' House Deal Would Expand Spy Powers

Long-awaited compromise would offer telecoms immunity
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2008 11:40 AM CDT
'Sweeping' House Deal Would Expand Spy Powers
House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio is accompanied by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. Republican and Democratic House leaders hammered out a deal that expands spying powers.    (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

House leaders brokered a long-awaited compromise on spy powers today, bringing much of the post-9/11 NSA activities—illegal at the time—under law and granting a qualified immunity to telecom companies that participated in the extra-FISA program, the Wall Street Journal reports. The “most sweeping rewrite” of spy law in 30 years, the deal would allow some wiretapping of citizens without a warrant, and expand the power to eavesdrop on transnational communication.

The conditional immunity from about 40 lawsuits requires the companies to show a federal judge “substantial evidence” that they received written requests alleging the legality of the wiretap programs. The lower chamber is likely to vote tomorrow, and there are still obstacles to the bill’s passage. (Read more warrantless wiretapping stories.)

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