House and Senate leaders agreed yesterday on surveillance legislation that could shield telecommunications companies from privacy lawsuits, handing President Bush one of the last major legislative victories he is likely to achieve.
The agreement extends the government's ability to eavesdrop on espionage and terrorism suspects while effectively providing a legal escape hatch for AT&T, Verizon Communications and other telecom firms. They face more than 40 lawsuits that allege they violated customers' privacy rights by helping the government conduct a warrantless spying program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The breakthrough on the legislation came hours after the White House agreed to Democratic demands for domestic spending additions to an emergency war funding bill. Taken together, the bills -- two of the last major pieces of legislation to be approved by Congress this year -- suggest that Bush still wields considerable clout on national security issues but now must acquiesce to Democratic demands on favored domestic priorities to secure victory.
So very very weak.