Ashcroft told more than 100 law enforcement officers that the act is an extension of the national crime fighting efforts in cities throughout America.
The attorney general says America is more secure than it was two years ago. And Americans are freer than at any point in the history of the world,'' he said.
The Patriot Act has come under fire from both Democrats and Republicans for its broad search-and-seizure provisions. Critics say it violates civil liberties.
In an interview with reporters after his speech, Ashcroft said the Patriot Act has more checks and balances for searches than many of those conducted under local and state law.