Attorney General John Ashcroft has launched a campaign to defend the anti-terrorism law passed shortly after 9/11. The law, often called the USA Patriot Act, has received harsh criticism for giving the government too much power over the rights of citizens and immigrants.
Ashcroft will visit more than a dozen cities to "clear up some myths" about the law in question and explain why it is necessary to fight the war on terrorism. The nationwide tour is expected to last four weeks.
"An attorney general going on the road, away from his official duties, to favorably spin policies violative of civil liberties is troubling, to say the least," says Laura Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington office.
About 150 local governments have approved resolutions objecting to the Patriot Act. Justice Department officials worry that growing opposition to the law, especially regarding government "sneak and peek" searches of private property, will prevent further anti-terrorism legislation from being passed.