President Bush focused on the war on terrorism in a speech Monday in Pennsylvania, an important state in his re-election campaign. Mr. Bush called on Congress to renew the controversial law, the U.S.A. Patriot Act, which he said will help America stay strong and resolute in the face of a continuing terrorist threat.
The president said the government needs certain tools to protect the American people. High on his list is the U.S.A. Patriot Act.
It is a law passed by Congress in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which contains steps that make it easier for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to share information. It also includes provisions that expand the use of wiretaps and search warrants, and increase electronic surveillance of suspected terrorists.
Critics, including some members of the president's own political party, said that the Patriot Act goes too far and threatens individual liberties. They have said that they want to block or at least delay congressional action when key parts of the law come up for renewal next year. Mr. Bush said that they are wrong, and called the measure "essential law."
"We have got to be vigilant against terror at all costs," he said. "And there is only one path to safety and that is the path of action. We must act with the Patriot Act. We must continue to stay on the offensive."
Mr. Bush added that the entire law should be made permanent. He suggested that Congress made some of the law's key provisions subject to renewal because some lawmakers thought the terrorist threat would be short lived.
"The problem is that the war on terror continues and yet some senators and congressmen not only want to let the provisions expire, they want to roll back some of the permanent features," he said. "It doesn't make any sense. We can't return to the days of false hope."
The remarks came in a speech to a convention of local government officials in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The president is expected to deliver a similar message Tuesday at an event in Buffalo, New York.