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US Congress passed foreign surveillance bill

Finally President Bush got the measure that he wanted, inspite of having a Democrat dominated House and Senate. And this was not a wafer-thin majority, but a decent margin showing cross party support for a measure that would male it easier for the spy agencies to do surveillance of overseas communications. This was a slightly complicated measure that seeks to bypass the reported judgment of a judge that US agencies do not have the legal right to eavesdrop on communications between people in the US and outside. This made it necessary for the Bush administration to approach Congress for an exemption, and it dutifully got this exemption, with Congress giving a 6 month exemption to the need to approach the court for every surveillance request between suspects based in the US and suspects outside.

In recent weeks, the administration and congressional Republicans pressed for the change in response to what it called a dangerous gap in surveillance capabilities. This was triggered by what news reports say was a ruling by a judge that the government had exceeded its authority in surveillance of communications overseas passing through electronic centers in the United States.

The legislation authorizes for six months the National Security Agency to intercept, without a court order, communications between people in the United States and foreign targets overseas. The Bush administration would have to demonstrate to a special court that a surveillance request only targeted individuals outside the United States. Under existing law called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the government must obtain court approval to conduct surveillance of suspected terrorists within the United States.

The biggest concern raised about this law is about whether this is an acceptable intrusion into the privacy of citizens in the US communicating with people abroad. How many people would appreciate that their liasions, their business deals, their intimate contact, etc, can all be easily listened to now without the need for a court approval, just depending on the concerned spy agency to ensure that their privacy is not being invaded.

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