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Bush Calls for Extension of Anti-Terrorism Law; Kerry Criticizes Iraq Policies - 2004-04-17


President Bush used his weekly radio address to call for the extension of a controversial anti-terrorism law. His presumptive Democratic challenger in this year's election criticized the president's handling of Iraq.

The U.S. Patriot Act was one of the first legislative responses to September 11.

In the weeks following the 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress removed barriers to information-sharing between law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It also made it easier to conduct electronic surveillance and wiretaps on suspected terrorists.

Concerns about the potential abuse of those broader policing powers have made the Patriot Act a campaign issue. The president's presumptive Democratic challenger in this year's election, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, voted for the Patriot Act, but has since expressed concerns about its implementation.

Some provisions of the law are set to expire next year, and president Bush says that would put the nation at risk.

"Some politicians in Washington act as if the threat to America will also expire on that schedule," said president Bush. "Yet, we have seen what the terrorists intend for us, in deadly attacks from Bali to Mombassa to Madrid. And we will not forget the lessons of September the 11th. To abandon the Patriot Act would deprive law enforcement and intelligence officers of needed tools in the war on terror, and demonstrate willful blindness to a continuing threat."

The president says the Patriot Act safeguards Americans in a way that is fully consistent with constitutional protections. Since it began, Mr. Bush says, investigators have disrupted terrorist cells in at least six American cities, reflecting what he says is a fundamental shift in how government agencies defend against terrorist attack.

In the coming week, the president will continue to campaign on the Patriot Act - and national security as a whole - in meetings with law enforcement officials in the states of Pennsylvania and New York.

National security, the economy and the war in Iraq are the biggest issues in this year's presidential race.

In the Democratic radio address, Senator Kerry said the president's unilateral policy in Iraq has steadily drifted from tragedy to tragedy.

Senator Kerry called for a broader approach to the rebuilding of Iraq, with a greater reliance on other nations and a NATO-led effort to maintain security. He said it would be unthinkable to retreat in disarray, leaving behind a society dominated by radicals.

"It is now more important than ever that we take a different approach, designed to maximize our chance for success by making full use of the assets available to us," said Senator Kerry. "First, the administration must level with the American people, and be honest and upfront about the difficulties we face. The president may not want to admit mistakes, but his choices in Iraq have so far produced a tragedy of errors."

Senator Kerry voted to authorize the war in Iraq, but has criticized the president's handing of the post-war political and economic reconstruction.

President Bush says Iraq is moving toward democracy. In the past week, he and British Prime Minister Tony Blair endorsed a U.N. plan to establish a transitional government in Iraq to pave the way for elections.

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