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Secret U.S. court OKs electronic spying

A secretive federal court on Monday granted police broad authority to monitor Internet use, record keystrokes and employ other surveillance methods against terror and espionage suspects. In an unexpected and near-complete victory for law enforcement, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review overturned a lower court's decision and said that Attorney General John Ashcroft's request for new powers was reasonable.

The 56-page ruling removes procedural barriers for federal agents conducting surveillance under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The law, enacted as part of post-Watergate reforms, permits sweeping electronic surveillance, telephone eavesdropping and surreptitious searches of residences and offices.

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Ashcroft applauded the ruling, characterizing it as a "victory for liberty, safety and the security of the American people." Ashcroft said the ruling marks a new era of collaboration between police and intelligence agencies such as the CIA and the National Security Agency. "This decision allows law enforcement officials to learn from intelligence officials, and vice versa, as a means of sort of allowing the information to flow from one community to another," Ashcroft said. "This will greatly enhance our ability to put pieces together that different agencies have. I believe this is a giant step forward."

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News source: c|net

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