President George W. Bush asked Congress on Saturday for a prompt vote to extend an anti-terrorism law created after the September 11 attacks, calling it a “strong weapon” for fighting terrorism.
The Senate and House of Representatives were to vote on the renewal of the USA Patriot Act next week after Republican negotiators said on Thursday they crafted a compromise bill.
The deal has been harshly criticized by several Senate Republicans and Democrats and its fate was uncertain. Some opponents said civil liberties concerns were not satisfactorily addressed.
“The Patriot Act has proved essential to fighting the war on terror and preventing our enemies from striking America again,” Bush said in his weekly radio address.
The congressional agreement would renew 16 provisions of the law that were set to expire at the end of December and make 14 of those provisions permanent, Bush said.
“Now Congress needs to finish the job,” he said. “Both the Senate and the House need to hold a prompt vote, and send me a bill renewing the Patriot Act so I can sign it into law.”
The law expanded the government’s powers to track terrorism suspects after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Critics say it does not adequately protect civil liberties because it makes it easier for authorities to infringe on the privacy of Americans not involved in terrorism.
“Over the past four years, the Patriot Act has been a strong weapon for going after the terrorists,” Bush said. He said it had been used to prosecute “terrorist operatives and supporters or break up terror cells” in New York, Oregon, Virginia, California, Texas, and Ohio.
“The Patriot Act is helping America defeat our enemies while safeguarding civil liberties for all our people,” Bush said.
“In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this vital law for a single moment,” he said.