The United States was justified in going to war in Iraq because Saddam Hussein (search) was capable of producing weapons of mass destruction, Vice President Dick Cheney (search) told backers of GOP candidates Saturday.

Cheney also called on Congress to renew the Patriot Act, (search) the anti-terrorism bill that critics say has curbed civil liberties but that Cheney defended as allowing federal law enforcement to share more intelligence information.

"We use these tools to catch embezzlers and drug traffickers and we need these tools as well to hunt terrorists," he said of the bill's provisions.

Speaking to nearly 200 people at a $1,500-a-plate luncheon benefiting Republican U.S. House candidates, Cheney said that while inspectors have failed to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the regime did have the scientists and the technology needed to produce them.

"We know that Saddam Hussein had the intent to arm his regime with weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein had something else — he had a record of using weapons of mass destruction against his enemies and against his own people," he said.

Cheney also praised U.S. intelligence officers for discovering terrorist plots that he said authorities were able to prevent. He did not give any specifics.

"Americans can be grateful every day for the skillful and daring service of our nation's intelligence professionals," Cheney said.

The fund-raiser in Rosemont, a Chicago suburb, was sponsored by the National Republican Congressional Committee.