- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2005

President Bush yesterday called on Congress to renew provisions of the USA Patriot Act that expire at the end of the year and defied critics to document a single case of abuse under the law.

“The terrorist threats against us will not expire at the end of the year, and neither should the protections of the Patriot Act,” Mr. Bush told state troopers at the Ohio State Highway Patrol Training Academy in Columbus.

“Sixteen critical provisions of the Patriot Act are scheduled to expire,” he said. “Some people call these sunset provisions. That’s a good name, because letting those provisions expire would leave law enforcement in the dark.”

Although liberals and some conservatives say some of those provisions infringe on civil liberties, the president refused to budge on any of them.

“All 16 provisions are practical, important and they’re constitutional — Congress needs to renew them all,” he said. “And this time, Congress needs to make the provisions permanent.”

The president’s remarks were called “deceptive” by Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, who cast the lone vote against the Patriot Act when it passed the Senate 98-1 in October 2001.

“This is a drastic threat to the freedoms of all Americans — it is completely unnecessary,” Mr. Feingold told CNN. “These are terrible provisions, they need to be changed and I think the president is absolutely wrong.”

But Mr. Bush cited another Democratic senator in defending the Patriot Act. “When Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has worked with civil rights groups to monitor my administration’s use of the Patriot Act, here’s what she said: ‘We’ve scrubbed the area and I have no reported abuses,’ ” he said. “Remember that the next time you hear someone make an unfair criticism of this important good law.”

However, Mrs. Feinstein released a statement after Mr. Bush’s speech saying she does not support expanding the act’s powers, as a Senate committee did when it voted earlier this week not only to extend the act’s provisions but also give the FBI new subpoena powers that don’t require, as now, a court’s prior approval.

“There has been no request by the administration for this change to the law, and the FBI did not object to my amendment to strike this language,” Mrs. Feinstein said.

Lisa Graves, ACLU senior counsel, called it a “radical expansion of FBI powers” which the Justice Department has sought since the 1970s.

“Unchecked power is not a good idea,” she said. “It’s a very dramatic expansion and unwarranted.”

The president differed with Mr. Feingold’s view that the act is “an attack on the Bill of Rights.”

“The Patriot Act has not diminished American liberties,” Mr. Bush said. “The Patriot Act has helped to defend American liberties.”

Mr. Bush chose to give his speech in Ohio because that’s where law-enforcement officials used provisions of the act to prosecute a Columbus truck driver named Iyman Faris for plotting terrorist attacks after meeting with Osama bin Laden.

“The case against him was so strong that Faris chose to cooperate,” Mr. Bush said. “And today, instead of planning terror attacks against the American people, Iyman Faris is sitting in an American prison.”

The president added that more than 400 suspects have been prosecuted using the act. “And more than half of those charged had been convicted.”

Supporters of the Patriot Act say the law allows a better exchange of information between intelligence authorities and law-enforcement officers. “Before the Patriot Act, criminal investigators were separated from intelligence officers by a legal and bureaucratic wall,” Mr. Bush said. “The Patriot Act helped tear down this wall.”

He added: “For the sake of our national security, Congress must not rebuild a wall between law enforcement and intelligence.”

The president also praised a provision of the Patriot Act that allows investigators to use “roving wiretaps” and other tools they have long used against mobsters and other criminals. Another provision allows Internet service providers to give investigators information about computer espionage without fear of being sued by customers.

Mr. Bush pointed out that Congress will continue to oversee application of the Patriot Act even if the law is made permanent. “Congress has recently created a federal board to ensure that the Patriot Act and other laws respect privacy and civil liberties,” he said. “And I’ll soon name five talented Americans to serve on that board.”

Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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