In New York Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft defended the controversial counter-terrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act.
On the eve of the second anniversary of the September 11 attack on New York's World Trade Center, Mr. Ashcroft spoke with law enforcement personnel just blocks away from the site of the devastation. He said the anti-terrorism law gives law enforcement officials the necessary tools to track down terrorists and prevent future attacks.
"We have used the tools provided in the Patriot Act to fulfill our first responsibility, that of protecting the American people," he said. "We have used these tools to prevent terrorists from unleashing more death and more destruction on our soil. We have used these tools to save innocent American lives. We have used these tools to provide the security that ensures liberty."
Mr. Ashcroft's speech was part of a 16-city tour to drum up support for the Patriot Act, which has come under heavy criticism from civil liberties groups. They say the law violates the U.S. Constitution by allowing the government to abuse its surveillance powers and secretly monitor citizens.