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Gonzales orders comparative review of US, UK anti-terror laws

[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official website] on Monday directed the US Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy and Office of Legal Counsel to conduct a comparative review of American and British anti-terrorism laws [Home Office materials]. Gonzales' order comes just one day after US Department of Homeland Security [official website] Secretary Michael Chertoff [official profile] suggested that US lawmakers consider revising US counterterrorism laws to make them more wide-ranging [JURIST report], referring to last week's thwarted terror plot in Britain [JURIST report] as a successful example of more comprehensive surveillance powers. Chertoff said that broad UK counterterrorism laws allowed British authorities to detect and quickly act on the threat in a move that would have likely come under criticism under US counterterrorism law that constitutionally restricts electronic surveillance [JURIST news archive] of suspects.

Britain's newest anti-terror law, the controversial Terrorism Act 2006 [PDF text; backgrounder] passed earlier this year, allows authorities to detain a terror suspect for up to 28 days without charge [JURIST report], whereas American authorities must charge or release a suspect within 48 hours under the civilian court system, although detention of so-called "enemy combatants" under the jurisdiction of the Defense Department may be much longer. Gonzales, speaking [prepared remarks] at the national Disabled American Veterans [advocacy website] convention in Chicago, suggested that a longer civil detention policy may be a possibility, but added that lawmakers will need to examine its constitutionality. The New York Times has more. The Chicago Sun-Times has additional coverage.

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