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In an unprecedented move, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has launched a multi-million dollar television ad campaign aimed at pressuring the United States government into scaling back anti-terrorism laws and regulations that were imposed after the attacks of 11 September 2001, reports the Associated Press.

The first ads debuted on television networks in major cities last week, and will be run nation-wide for three months beginning in January.

The ads criticise Attorney General John Ashcroft for "seiz[ing] powers for the Bush administration no president should ever have," such as "the right to investigate you for what you say, to intrude on your privacy, or to hold you in jail without charging you with a crime."

ACLU says the aim of the campaign is to pressure the Bush administration into repealing the most repressive provisions in the USA Patriot Act and limiting the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) powers to spy on individuals and groups.

The USA Patriot Act, passed shortly after the 11 September attacks, grants federal agencies powers to monitor telephone and email communications, and search peoples' homes, without a court order.

The Bush administration has also given the FBI greater powers to spy on individuals and groups suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. This includes infiltrating religious establishments and political meetings, and accessing computers containing commercial, economic or scientific data.

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