President Bush has signed into law a bill that gives the U.S. government more power to eavesdrop on suspected foreign terrorists.
The legislation lifts a previous requirement that such surveillance could not begin without advance permission from a court. Mr. Bush says in a statement Sunday that this change will give U.S. agents "dynamic and flexible" tools for counterterrorism work.
The new law, called the Protect America Act, allows the U.S. National Security Agency to intercept telephone conversations, e-mail and other communications between foreigners that are routed through American equipment. Should a U.S. resident become a target of such an investigation, court approval still will be required.
Mr. Bush says this will protect Americans' civil liberties while also aiding those trying to gather information about the intentions of the United States' enemies.
The new law updates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, but it expands the government's wiretapping authority for six months only. Mr. Bush thanked members of Congress for passing the bill before beginning their summer recess, and he also urged them to begin work promptly next month on further, permanent reforms of the intelligence law.
The vote to update FISA had bipartisan support during voting in both the Senate and House of Representatives, despiter sharp criticism from opponents of the measure who contend it will curtail Americans' privacy rights.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.