BALTIMORE – Nearly two weeks after terrorists launched a deadly strike on the London mass transit system, President Bush sought Wednesday to reassure Americans that his administration is working overtime to prevent attacks in the United States.
"What I'm telling you is that we're focused here," Bush said from the Port of Baltimore, where he got a waterside demonstration of cargo-screening (search) techniques. "When you're at war, you can't lose sight of the fact that you're at war."
Among the state-of-the-art techniques Bush observed were computerized systems, sophisticated radiation detectors and advanced X-ray equipment.
"You can look inside in the truck, and you don't even have to get in it," Bush said afterward to an audience of state and local officials and port employees. "That's called technology. And it's working. It makes a big difference."
Bush also lobbied Congress to renew the provisions of the Patriot Act (search) that will expire later this year unless lawmakers renew them.
"The Patriot Act helps us to defeat our enemies while safeguarding civil liberties for all Americans," Bush said. "As we saw in London, the terrorists are still active, and they are still plotting to take innocent life. So my message to the Congress is clear: This is no time to let our guard down and no time to roll back good laws. The Patriot Act is expected to expire, but the terrorist threats will not expire."
The Patriot Act expanded the government's intelligence-gathering powers after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Its renewal, which is working its way through Congress, would extend more than a dozen provisions, including one that makes it easier for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to share terrorism-related information.
Republicans in the House and Senate trying to renew — and in some cases expand — the Patriot Act say it has been used in a restrained way to combat terror. Some Democratic critics say the measure gives too much power to the authorities and argue that there is little evidence the legislation has produced results.