Attorney General John Ashcroft began a nationwide tour in defense of the USA Patriot Act, telling a conservative Washington audience that to abandon it “would senselessly imperil American lives and American liberty, and it would ignore the lessons of Sept. 11,” the New York Times reports. Critics say the law gives the federal government too much power, but Ashcroft said the statute “gives us the technological tools to anticipate, adapt and out-think our terrorist enemy.”
Ashcroft is due to appear in more than a dozen cities in the next month in private meetings with law enforcement groups. U.S. Attorneys have been asked to schedule public forums. The Justice Department established a new Web site, www.lifeandliberty.gov, to dispel “major myths” about the law.
The Times said that Laura Murphy, head of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union, was troubled by Ashcroft’s “road show.” “How prudent is it to be spending public money on a Patriot Act charm offensive?” she asked.