Telecoms Gain Immunity From Wiretap Suits

'It’s not compromise; it’s pure theater,' says one plaintiff.
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2008 8:42 AM CDT
A deal in Congress on regulation of warrantless wiretapping represents a major victory for the Bush administration.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, file)
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(Newser) – Yesterday's Congressional deal on warrantless wiretapping will wipe out some 40 pending lawsuits against phone companies that took part in the Bush administration's eavesdropping scheme, ending 5 months of Democratic resistance to giving the telcos immunity for their actions. In what the New York Times calls to the biggest change to surveillance law in 30 years, telecoms will receive protection from lawsuits so long as a court determines that the government asked them to allow the tap.

GOP leaders described the requirement of a court review as a mere "formality." “No matter how they spin it, this is still immunity,” said a spokesman for one plaintiff. “It’s not compromise; it’s pure theater.” The immunity provision represents a huge victory for the Bush administration. "I think the White House got a better deal than even they had hoped to get," said Christopher Bond, the Republican senator from Missouri.