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Controversial new laws which would allow the government to monitor emails, web history, phone calls and text messages are due to be announced later this year.

Facebook inboxes and Twitter direct messages will also be targeted under the Communications Capabilities Development Programme.

The plans are part of the government's Counter Terrorism Strategy, which MPs will cite to help push it through parliament.

They can be used for other purposes, however, and have been condemned by Society of Editors chief executive Bob Satchwell.

He said: "It's ironic that at a time when the media is under fire for intruding into people's privacy, there are a growing number of official organisations who do so routinely under the protection of the law.

"Normally journalists do not ask for any privileges above those that the ordinary citizen is entitled to. But this is an instance where there must be an exemption - safeguards must be put in. Sources could be compromised."

Journalists are set to suffer if the new laws are passed, because sources will be harder to protect with virtually all forms of communication being covered and officials being able to consult a database of the "who, when and where" of every message sent via an electronic device.

Communications companies will also have to keep their own records, which will be available for security services to consult. They will not store the content of individual messages, just who sent them, when and where.

Police will be able to have access to a live feed of communications from or to a single person under surveillance, along with being able to access databases held by Facebook, BT and mobile phone operators.

Satchwell said: "This government and the forces of law and order are riding roughshod over the rights of the individual.

"Ironically, the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] was introduced after the last war to protect the citizen against state interference of this kind. Instead, it is being used by the state against the individual."

The plans are likely to be included in the Queen's Speech in May and are similar to the Intercept Modernisation Programme, which was ditched by the last Labour government in 2009.

As companies are now being asked to keep their own records, the new plans differ slightly from those put forward by Labour, under which all e-records were to be kept on a central database.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Being able to show that a mobile phone belonging to one individual was used to contact another suspect's phone just before a murder or terrorist attack can be vital evidence.

"And not only is it used as evidence, but it can also provide vital intelligence in stopping a serious crime and saving lives."