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Bush Asks Congress to Renew Entirety of U.S. of Patriot Act

By Eric Lichtblau

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

President Bush on Monday urged the nation to stay the course in its “urgent mission” to fight terrorism, and he called on Congress to move quickly to extend sweeping law enforcement powers under the USA Patriot Act.

“We must not allow the passage of time or the illusion of safety to weaken our resolve in this new war,” Bush said in a speech at the Justice Department. “To protect the American people, Congress must promptly renew all provisions of the Patriot Act this year.”

The president’s remarks came at the formal swearing-in of his friend and longtime adviser, Alberto R. Gonzales, as the nation’s 80th attorney general. Gonzales won Senate confirmation 11 days ago by a vote of 60 to 36 after a sharp debate that focused on the administration’s terrorism policies and their impact on the treatment of prisoners

Bush built his re-election campaign last year around the assertion that he was the candidate best able to defend the country against another terrorist attack. In taking on the subject of the Patriot Act once again, he showed no signs of backing away from that approach.

A number of measures in the act that expand the government’s ability to conduct secret surveillance and use other law enforcement powers will expire at the end of the year unless Congress extends them. Many Democrats and some Republicans have voiced skepticism or outright opposition to an extension, and some lawmakers have offered competing proposals that would restrict the ability of federal agents to demand records from libraries and use other powers granted by the act.

Bush’s renewed call for an extension met with skepticism from the American Civil Liberties Union, which called on “cooler heads” in Congress to scrutinize and fine-tune the law to meet civil liberties concerns.

“The president and the attorney general must realize that security and liberty are not -- and cannot -- be mutually exclusive,” the group said in a statement.