- WASHINGTON - President Bush
on Monday urged Congress to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act, the Justice
Department's widely criticized anti-terrorism law.
- "We must not allow the passage of time or the illusion
of safety to weaken our resolve in this new war" on terrorism, Bush
said at a swearing-in ceremony for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at
the Justice Department.
- The president also argued that the Senate must give his
nominees for the federal bench up-or-down votes without delay to fill vacancies
in the courts.
- The Patriot Act, passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks, bolstered FBI surveillance and law-enforcement powers in terror
cases, increased use of material witness warrants to hold suspects incommunicado
for months, and allowed secret proceedings in immigration cases.
- Civil liberties groups and privacy advocates lambasted
the law because they said it undermines freedom. But Bush said the act
"has been vital to our success in tracking terrorists and disrupting
their plans." He noted that many key elements of the law are set to
expire at the end of the year and said Congress must act quickly to renew
- The Patriot Act was pushed by Gonzales' predecessor,
John Ashcroft, who was in the audience as Gonzales took his oath from Supreme
Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Bush lauded Ashcroft's tireless efforts
to make America safer as he oversaw a drop in violent crime besides his
- Gonzales, who served as White House counsel during the
last four years, said he would be a part of Bush's team but his first allegiance
will be to the Constitution.
- "I am confident that in the days and years ahead
we in the department will work together tirelessly to address terrorism
and other threats to our nation and to confront injustice with integrity
and devotion to our highest ideals," Gonzales said.
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