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Terror legislation watchdog calls on Britain to draw up new surveillance law

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LONDON — Britain's terror legislation watchdog concluded Thursday that the country needs a new law on monitoring online communications, arguing a fresh approach is necessary to address the concerns of both law enforcement and privacy advocates.

The independent reviewer of terror legislation, David Anderson, proposed a new blueprint for surveillance laws, saying that the existing framework satisfies neither security services nor privacy activists. The landmark 300-page report argues that a comprehensive and comprehensible law is needed to replace a multitude of current powers.

"Each intrusive power must be shown to be necessary, clearly spelled out in law, limited in accordance with international human rights standards and subject to demanding and visible safeguards," Anderson said. "The current law is fragmented, obscure, under constant challenge and variable in the protections that it affords the innocent. It is time for a clean slate."

The new architecture proposed for surveillance laws could have broader implications. Many countries look to Britain, and its long history of dealing with insurgencies, as being a leader in security legislation, said Cian Murphy, a counterterrorism law expert at King's College London.

"It is for Parliament to rise to the challenge of making that law — one which could set an example for states around the world," he said.

Anderson concluded that existing laws haven't kept pace with technology and are confusing — comparing it in a BBC interview to a 15-year-old car in need of repairs. One of Anderson's suggestions is the creation of a new intelligence auditor to oversee novel, contentious and sensitive requests for interception of communications.

The government ordered the review as part of legislation fast-tracked through Parliament last year.

Home Secretary Theresa May said a draft bill on reforming the powers of security services to monitor online communications will be will be brought forward after the summer recess.

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