Patriot Act Not 'Source of Abuse,' But 'Source of Protection,' Ashcroft Says

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

( - The Bush administration is warning those who plan to legislate changes to the USA Patriot Act: the president will veto any bill scaling back key parts of the Patriot Act.

"The Patriot Act has not been the source of abuse. It is the source of protection," said Attorney General John Ashcroft said in a press conference Thursday afternoon.

In a letter to Senate leaders, Ashcroft said the changes proposed by the Security and Freedom Ensured Act (SAFE) would "undermine our ongoing campaign to detect and prevent catastrophic terrorist attacks."

Should the SAFE act reach the president's desk in its current form, Ashcroft said, "the president's senior advisers will recommend that it be vetoed."

In his State of the Union Address, President Bush called on Congress to reauthorize the Patriot Act before it expires in 2005.

The SAFE act was introduced last fall by Sens. Larry Craig, (R-Idaho), Dick Durbin, (-Ill.), and other lawmakers of both parties. It is yet to have a hearing in the House or Senate.

"This legislation intends to ensure the liberties of law-abiding individuals are protected in our nation's fight against terrorism, without in any way impeding that fight," Craig said.

Ashcroft has said the SAFE act would "make it even more difficult to mount an effective anti-terror campaign than it was before the Patriot Act was passed."

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