WASHINGTON – Despite three years of outcry from activists who say the Bush
administration has been sacrificing basic individual rights in the name of
preventing terrorism, other issues in the presidential campaign have
drowned out the protection of civil liberties.

Senator John F. Kerry, determined to demonstrate that he can be trusted to
protect the country from terrorists, says little on the subject beyond
using “end the era of John Ashcroft” as a generic applause line and calling
for modestly stronger oversight of a few of the new police powers provided
by the USA Patriot Act, a law Kerry voted for after the attacks of Sept.
11, 2001.

President Bush, meanwhile, has staunchly defended the Patriot Act, and his
administration has asked Congress for even greater surveillance powers to
fend off potential terrorist attacks.

In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, two out of three Americans said
some civil liberties had to be given up to fight terrorism. But a recent
Pew Foundation poll indicated that half as many Americans now hold that view.

Still, protection of civil liberties does not rank high as a concern among
most voters this year. The Iraq war and the US economy are the big issues..


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