After months of wrangling, Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress struck a deal on Thursday to overhaul the rules on the government’s wiretapping powers and provide what amounts to legal immunity to the phone companies that took part in President Bush’s program of eavesdropping without warrants after the Sept. 11 attacks.But is it really a compromise?
With AT&T and other telecommunications companies facing some 40 lawsuits over their reported participation in the wiretapping program, Republican leaders described this narrow court review on the immunity question as a mere “formality.”
“The lawsuits will be dismissed,” Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 2 Republican in the House, predicted with confidence.
The proposal — particularly the immunity provision — represents a major victory for the White House after months of dispute.