Attorney General John Ashcroft will make a cross-country tour next week to defend the USA Patriot Act and other legislation as vital tools in the fight against terrorism, says the Washington Post. Justice Department officials said the appearances at more than a dozen stops from Philadelphia to Salt Lake City will be aimed at countering criticism from civil liberties groups and some lawmakers that authorities have gone too far in wielding antiterrorism powers granted by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
More than 140 cities and counties, in addition to state legislatures in Alaska, Hawaii and Vermont, have approved resolutions condemning the Patriot Act. Justice officials were blindsided last month by the House, which voted 309 to 118 to cut off funding for part of the law that allows the government to conduct “sneak and peek” searches of private property.
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued over a provision that allows the government to seize business, library and computer records without disclosing it has done so.
Ashcroft will give a speech in Washington on Aug. 19, followed by planned appearances in cities including Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Salt Lake City. Ashcroft has endorsed other changes in counterterrorism law. One would allow investigators to obtain administrative subpoenas without the approval of a judge. The change is included in a broad package in draft form on Capitol Hill aimed at drug traffickers alleged to be engaged in terrorist activities.