Legal reporter Charlie Savage's Sunday report, "Battle Looms Over the Patriot Act - Government's Power to Seize Records and Eavesdrop Are at Issue ," begged the question: How does the Times distinguish a "civil libertarian" from a plain old liberal activist?
Savage managed to locate honorable "civil libertarians" four times and noted "civil liberties groups" once. Yet he couldn't find a single "liberal" - perhaps because Americans findjust about any ideological labelmore popular than "liberal."
As Congress prepares to consider extending crucial provisions of the USA Patriot Act, civil liberties groups and some Democratic lawmakers are gearing up to press for sweeping changes to surveillance laws.
Strangely, Savage didn't quote or even name any of those "civil liberties groups."
Both the House and the Senate are set to hold their first committee hearings this week on whether to reauthorize three sections of the Patriot Act that expire at the end of this year. The provisions expanded the power of the F.B.I. to seize records and to eavesdrop on phone calls in the course of a counterterrorism investigation.
Laying down a marker ahead of those hearings, a group of senators who support greater privacy protections filed a bill on Thursday that would impose new safeguards on the Patriot Act while tightening restrictions on other surveillance policies. The measure is co-sponsored by nine Democrats and an independent.
But in general, civil libertarians and some Democrats have called for changes that would require stronger evidence of meaningful links between a terrorism suspect and the person whom investigators are targeting....some civil libertarians want lawmakers to revisit a June 2008 law in which Congress granted immunity from civil lawsuits to telecommunications companies that assisted President George W. Bush's program of surveillance without warrants, and that adjusted federal statutes to bring them into alignment with a form of that program.
On par with the paper'sstandard labeling slant, Savage found no liberals but did find "fierce opposition from Senate conservatives."