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The web of US legislation continues to widen

19 September, 2007
President Bush was on his feet today calling for the Protect America act to be made permanent when it comes up for re-instatement on its expiry date of the 1st of February, 2008
There is something of a tangle of US laws relating to anti-terrorism with the Protect America Act having been signed into law on the 5th August this year being the latest into the foray. The act is essentially a re-hash of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which had fallen seriously out of date and needed to better reflect today's surveillance environment, particularly in terms of communications.

Despite being somewhat improved by the Terrorist Surveillance act of 2006, the 30-year-old act didn't take account of IP communications and had no provision for communications originating from or ending on foreign soil, which given the potential and wide-spread use of international electronic communications, was no small restriction. The original act allowed for, amongst other things, surveillance of foreign citizens on US land and this continuation in the Protect America Act is at the crux of the opposition which seeks to prevent it from becoming a permanent part of the legal system next February. This controversy has led to legal actions having been taken against some corporations (mainly in telecoms), something which President Bush wants to suppress through what he referred to in today's speech as "providing meaningful liability protection".

It seems clear that the legal framework for protecting America against terrorism will continue to expand and continue to court controversy. The other significant piece of American statute that affects powers of surveillance is the Patriot Act of 2001, signed into law less than two months after the September 11th attacks.
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