Ames Tribune – December 2, 2003
Kerry speaks against Patriot Act legislation
By Matt Neznanski
Sen. John Kerry, speaking to hundreds of supporters at Iowa State University, said as president he would end the "John Ashcroft era."
Kerry said the attorney general had used the Patriot Act legislation to turn on Americans' rights.
"I know one thing this country doesn't need is an attorney general who spies on Americans," he said.
Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, cited a report by the Justice Department's inspector general that said 762 people of Arab and Muslim descent have been detained for months without being charged with any offense.
He said as a prosecutor in Massachusetts he fought to combine the databases police and federal agencies use to identify suspects. Kerry said there are 58 different national terrorist watch lists that should be combined to ease the flow of information.
At the same time, Kerry defended the original intent behind the overwhelming support for the Patriot Act after Sept. 11. Kerry voted with 98 other senators to approve the legislation.
According to Kerry, the law increased penalties for terrorism, limited the statutes of limitations for prosecuting terrorist crimes and clamped down on the money-laundering operations used to finance terrorism.
Still, he said the Bush administration went too far by using the law in ways that were never intended.
He said federal agents could be rifling through Web site visits, reading e-mail and requesting personal medical records.
"It doesn't take a cynic to wonder how far these powers will be taken," Kerry said.
He suggested adding measures that would require federal agents to ask judges for permission to investigate records and reveal their searches to suspects within seven to 10 days.
And Kerry blasted Republican advertisements that attacked Democrats for badmouthing the president's actions against terrorism. "Attack ads that assault our very patriotism are unacceptable," he said.