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.)