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 it.

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 counterterrorism work.

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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