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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
New anti-terror laws for US
President Bush signs the Bill into law
Bush says the laws will prevent future atrocities
US President George W Bush has signed into law an anti-terrorism bill that gives sweeping new powers to police forces and intelligence agencies.

The new bill

Increases penalties for terror crimes
Allows the tapping of any phone a suspect uses
Allows foreign terror suspects to be held up to seven days before being charged or deported.
Sets up a new database to track 600,000 foreign students in the US
Authorises nationwide search warrants for computer information
At a White House signing ceremony, he said: "The changes effective today will help counter a threat like no other our nation has faced."

The legislation gives the police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation more leeway to secretly search people's homes and business records. It also gives them more power to eavesdrop on telephone conversations and electronic communications, share intelligence and detain suspected terrorists who enter the United States.

The bill increases the number of crimes considered terrorist acts and toughens the punishment for committing them, as well as imposing stronger penalties on those harbouring or financing terrorists.

Mr Bush said the legislation was essential not only to assist the pursuit and punishment of terrorists, but also to prevent more atrocities.

Senator Tom Daschle (Democrat)
Senate leader Tom Daschle says the measures strike the right balance
He added: "This government will enforce this law with all the urgency of a nation at war."

The new bill comes as the US Government is attempting to control an anthrax outbreak that may be linked to the 11 September terror attacks on New York and Washington.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has said the Justice Department will begin using the new powers immediately.

The House of Representatives and the Senate approved Mr Bush's anti-terrorism package in less than two months, bypassing much of the normal committee process.

There are still too many weaknesses in the Bill that could end up curbing and infringing fundamental civil rights and liberties

Ralph Neas
People For the American Way
But lawmakers, who were concerned about possible abuse of the new wiretapping and surveillance powers, have placed a four-year time limit on that part of the legislation - meaning it will lapse, unless renewed, by the end of 2005.

Civil liberties groups remain critical of the new measures.

"It is still dangerous legislation, and unfortunately there are still too many weaknesses in the bill that could end up curbing and infringing fundamental civil rights and liberties," said Ralph Neas, President of People For the American Way.

United States President George W Bush
"We are taking an essential step in defeating terrorism"
Congressman James Sensenbrenner
"Law enforcement needed to have better powers for electronic surveillance"
See also:

26 Oct 01 | Americas
US anti-terror laws draw fire
26 Oct 01 | Europe
US seeks EU help against terror
12 Oct 01 | Business
US tightens 'terror cash' laws
24 Sep 01 | Americas
Bush calls halt to terror funding
12 Oct 01 | Americas
FBI fears more terror attacks
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