- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday criticized Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry for supporting the rollback of specific Patriot Act provisions, saying the stance conflicts with the senator’s original vote in favor of the law.

Mr. Cheney told 500 supporters during a campaign speech in Kansas City, Mo., that it had been a rare moment when he and the Massachusetts Democrat had agreed on the vote.

“In a statement supporting the Patriot Act, Senator Kerry said the law would, and I quote, ‘make it a lot more difficult for new terrorist organizations to develop,’” Mr. Cheney said.

“I won’t be saying this very often during the next few months, but Senator Kerry was right,” Mr. Cheney said.

Several provisions of the Patriot Act passed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks will expire at the end of 2005, including sections that allow intelligence and law-enforcement agencies to share information.

The act also gives federal agents a “reasonable period” to search homes and businesses without informing people that their property was searched, and to use roving wiretaps.

Mr. Kerry is among some Democratic and Republican lawmakers who originally supported the bill, but now want to restrict those provisions.

A Kerry spokesman cited Marc Racicot, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, who agrees with the senator that the Patriot Act should be reformed.

Spokesman Phil Singer pointed to comments by Mr. Racicot in the fall at the Arab American Institute’s National Leadership Conference in Michigan that Congress would review the law, refine it, and provide balance “so that it does not end up invading the civil rights of any American.”

Mr. Racicot is the chairman of President Bush’s re-election campaign.

“John Kerry and Marc Racicot are in agreement on making this a better counterterrorism tool,” Mr. Singer said.

The Bush campaign began pushing the Patriot Act as a package of effective law-enforcement tools to catch terrorists in a central message last week, with TV advertisements in 17 states.

Former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, a Republican and vocal critic of the Patriot Act, said the message must be testing positive in campaign polling.

“I suspect they have discovered in polling that the Patriot Act resonates more with people if you talk about it in general terms and cast it as a vital tool in fighting terrorists,” Mr. Barr said.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, called Mr. Cheney’s speech “reckless.”

“The White House is waging a disinformation war about the Patriot Act while support grows among conservatives, libertarians and liberals to fix about a dozen controversial provisions in the law,” Mr. Romero said.

According to a report released last week by the Council for Excellence in Government, 56 percent of Americans polled think that the Patriot Act is necessary to prevent terrorism, while 33 percent said the law went too far.

Thirteen percent said the law is not working and should expire, and 50 percent said a thorough debate is necessary before the law is renewed.

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