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Gephardt, Kerry Criticize Bush On Civil Liberties, U.S. Security

By David M. Halbfinger and Rachel L. Swarns

The New York Times -- AMES, Iowa

Two rival Democrats harshly criticized the Bush administration on domestic security issues on Monday: Rep. Richard A. Gephardt said the president had failed to finance crucial security initiatives, and Sen. John Kerry compared the curtailing of civil liberties under the anti-terrorism law to the repression of Afghans by the Taliban.

Kerry, whose stump speech includes a line promising an attorney general whose name is not John Ashcroft, delivered his first full-length broadside against Ashcroft and the USA PATRIOT Act, the anti-terrorism measure, in a speech at the University of Iowa.

He said he had voted for the law after Sept. 11, 2001, because it was the time to act, not to haggle, but he said the president and the Justice Department had abused the spirit of national action after the attacks by using that and other laws in ways that have nothing to do with terrorism.

Kerry cited examples of what he called the administration’s excesses: spying on political demonstrations; indefinite detentions of U.S. citizens without cause; sneak-and-peek searches, in which investigators search homes and seize evidence without notifying people; and the secret retrieval of people’s library and business records, to name a few.

He also noted that federal homeland security workers had been used to help the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, R-Texas, track down Democratic state legislators in Texas who had been resisting his plan to create new congressional districts to give Republicans more seats in Congress.

In Manchester, N.H., Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut sought to recast economic issues in terms of moral values, a frequent theme for him, by repackaging a proposal to increase access to health insurance as a way for middle-class parents to spend more time with their children.