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Democrats, Gore step up criticism of Bush over Iraq

11th November 2003

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Top Democrats have stepped up their attacks on the George W Bush administration for it’s handling of the war in Iraq and the fight against global terrorism, which they say has threatened US civil liberties.

"They created this campaign to bolster their standing in the polls, to bolster their political support around the country, and they used these devices I think to a certain extent to intimidate people," Tom Daschle, leader of Democrats the Republican-controlled US Senate, told NBC television yesterday.

The South Dakota senator's comments followed a scathing, hour-long speech delivered Sunday by former Vice President Al Gore, accusing the Bush administration of exploiting Americans' fear of terrorism for political gain.

"In my opinion, it makes no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists, than it did to launch an invasion on Iraq as the best way to get at Osama bin Laden," Gore told a cheering crowd of some 3 000 Democratic activists on Sunday.

"I want to challenge the Bush administration's implicit assumption that we have to give up many of our traditional freedoms in order to be safe from terrorists," Gore told the audience at a forum sponsored by the liberal political group MoveOn.org and the American Constitution Society, a left-of-center legal group.

Gore was particularly critical of the US Patriot Act, the anti-terror legislation passed by the US Congress in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

The US Justice Department has said its expanded police investigative and surveillance powers under the legislation are the cornerstone of its battle against terrorism, but Gore said the bill has eroded the civil liberties of Americans and has "turned out to be, on balance, a terrible mistake".

The former vice president also was critical of the administration's detention of American citizens as enemy combatants, its treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and the rounding up of hundreds of illegal immigrants since September 11, 2001.

"They have taken us much further down the road toward an intrusive 'big brother' style of government than anyone ever thought would be possible in the US," Gore said Sunday. – Sapa-AFP.
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