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Gore Back on the Offensive

Former Vice President Al Gore said Thursday that some of the Bush administration's security measures in the past year amount to an "attack on civil liberties."

In his second strong criticism of administration policies this week -- he said Monday that moves toward war with Iraq harm the anti-terror effort -- Gore said "highly questionable" decisions are being made in the criminal justice system.

"What's going on nationally, with the attack on civil liberties, with American citizens in some cases just disappearing without right to counsel, without access to a lawyer, I think that is disgraceful," he said.

"I think we need to stand up for our principles in this country and stand up for what this nation represents, even as we face the terrible dangers that we have to confront in the world today."

Gore also decried any efforts to portray Democratic critics of the administration's homeland security plans and possible war with Iraq as unpatriotic or unconcerned about national security.

In Washington, meanwhile, the White House was trying to soften the tone of its disagreements with Senate Democrats who had objected strongly to President Bush saying the Senate's holding action on his homeland-security plans showed members were "not interested in the security of the American people."

In a speech in San Francisco on Monday, Gore said he was concerned that "the policy we are presently following with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century."

Some Democrats quickly distanced themselves from those comments by Gore, who narrowly lost the 2000 presidential race to Bush. However, others have been criticizing Bush more vigorously since then, including Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who took issue with Bush's "not-interested" remark.

On Thursday, Gore also criticized the Justice Department under Attorney General John Ashcroft, saying FBI warnings about possible terrorist activity before the Sept. 11 attacks had been ignored.

"The warnings were there," Gore said. He contended the Justice Department had assigned only one FBI agent to monitor Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida, while 13 FBI agents were assigned to eavesdrop on a brothel in New Orleans.

"Where is the sense of priorities?" asked Gore.

He commented Thursday at a fund-raising breakfast for Delaware attorney general candidate Carl Schnee.

"As we see nationally, some decisions being made in the criminal justice system that I think are highly questionable," Gore said. "It's more important than ever that the administration of justice be scrutinized carefully, and that races for attorney general like this one be the object of very, very close attention."