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Bush Signs Surveillance Law

The USA Patriot Act gives the federal government sweeping new powers to track electronic communications.
President Bush signed into law Friday anti-terrorism legislation that greatly expands the government's surveillance powers. Bush signed the compromise legislation, called the USA Patriot Act, after the House approved it 357-66 Wednesday and the Senate approved it 98-1 Thursday.

The law includes most of the anti-terrorism measures sought by the Bush administration, including not only new electronic-surveillance powers but also stronger tools to investigate terrorists' financial dealings, increased penalties for terrorist acts, and new powers to detain and investigate suspected terrorists.

Specifically, the act expands law enforcement's wiretap authority, allowing the tapping of multiple phones, making it easier to monitor E-mail and Internet communications, and permitting the sharing of collected data by domestic law-enforcement agencies and overseas intelligence agencies.

The law calls for a review of the new electronic-surveillance measures in four years, a provision included to address objections that the law was rushed through Congress without enough consideration given to civil liberties.

In a statement, privacy-advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation called the bill "overreaching" and said it curtails important online civil liberties.