Cheney stands firm on Patriot Act

CLEVELAND - Vice President Dick Cheney attacked congressional critics of the Patriot Act on Monday, saying they have been well briefed about the purpose of the anti-terror law.

"This is a good program," said Cheney, in Cleveland to attend a fundraiser for a Republican congressional candidate. "It has saved many lives. I'm convinced it has been absolutely crucial to maintaining the security of the United States."

Congress renewed the act in March, giving President Bush a victory and allowing Republicans to add to their tough-on-terror image for the midterm elections. The vote came only after a Democrat-led filibuster, with Bush accepting modest curbs on the government's power to investigate suspects in terror probes.

He said the nation's terrorist surveillance program remains limited in scope.

"The president has been very, very careful to make certain that this program is conducted in a manner that safeguards the civil liberties of the American people," Cheney told about 200 people attending the fundraiser for Craig Foltin, the mayor of Lorain, a Lake Erie city on the western outskirts of Cleveland.

"Issues of national security will clearly be at the top of the agenda as these midterm elections draw near," the vice president said.

In December 2005, Democrats blocked an attempt to renew the Patriot Act and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said at a rally after the vote: "We killed the Patriot Act."

Cheney (pictured with Foltin, above) said Reid boasted of his efforts to try to kill the bill.

"Some of our opponents who advocate a sudden withdrawal from Iraq are counseling the very kind of retreat that (Osama) bin Laden has been predicting. Yet these critics will not, and cannot, make the case that surrender in Iraq would make our nation safer."

But Reid voted for the act each time it came to a final vote and his spokesman, Jim Manley, said Cheney was trying to dredge up old comments to distort Democrats' positions.

"Senator Reid is a strong supporter of the Patriot Act and no amount of distortion or distraction from the vice president can change that," Manley said. "The Republican tough-talking rhetoric is no longer credible."

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