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Turkey approves controversial spy agency bill

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April 17, 2014 01:06 PM EST | AP


ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's parliament has approved a bill that increases the powers and immunities of the country's spy agency. It's the latest in a string of moves critics say is undermining democracy in the country that is a candidate to join the European Union.

The bill, approved Thursday, would give Turkey's National Intelligence Agency the ability to launch covert operations and increased capacity to keep tabs on citizens. It would also introduce prison terms for the publication of secret documents.

The government insists the overhaul will make the agency more efficient and allow it to meet "new security and foreign policy needs."

Opposition parties say the bill grants the agency far reaching powers and will turn Turkey into a surveillance state. It has vowed to seek its cancellation at Turkey's highest court.