Nets Yawn at Obama's Patriot Act Renewal; Hyped Bush's 'Broad Powers'

On Friday, the morning shows of the Big Three networks barely touched on President Obama approving the renewal of key provisions in the Patriot Act, avoiding the kind of criticism they launched during the terms of former President George W. Bush. During that time, the networks often expressed "concern...that civil liberties are threatened as never before" by the law, as CBS Evening News put it in 2003.

ABC's Good Morning America devoted one news brief to the development 17 minutes into 7 am Eastern hour. News anchor Josh Elliott noted how "President Obama signed an extension of the U.S. Patriot Act. He used a device called the auto pen because the bill had to be signed before midnight Washington time." NBC's Today show devoted the most attention to the presidential action with three news briefs from Ann Curry at 15 minutes past the 7 am Eastern hour, and at the top of the 8 and 9 am hours.

On The Early Show, CBS's Jeff Glor's brief on the Patriot Act extension, which aired at the same time as Curry's first brief on NBC, gave the most negative hint against the law of the three networks:

Jeff Glor, CBS News Anchor | NewsBusters.orgGLOR: Also, in France, by the way, President Obama signed into law a four-year extension of the terrorism-fighting Patriot Act. The Senate and House passed the extension just before it was due to expire. That bill extends the life of roving wiretaps, court-ordered searches of business records, and the surveillance of suspects without known ties to terrorist groups.

In a November 22, 2010 item for NewsBusters, Rich Noyes observed that after the TSA introduced more aggressive screenings at airport security checkpoints, the Big Three networks steered clear of accusing the Obama administration of violating citizens' freedom. He noted that this was a clear double standard compared to how they treated the Patriot Act during the Bush administration, citing a 2006 MRC study which found that 62% of their stories on the law "presented fears about a police state as valid and reasonable."

For example, on the October 4, 2004 edition of CBS Evening News, correspondent Wyatt Andrews spotlighted one woman's concerns after she was approached by the FBI for records on Iraqi refugees: "Under the Patriot Act, the FBI has broad powers to go after terrorists, but [Mary] Lieberman says she felt a chill for Americans."

The transcripts of ABC's and NBC's news briefs on the Patriot Act from their morning shows on Friday:

ABC's Good Morning America:

7:17 pm

JOSH ELLIOTT: And in France this morning, President Obama signed an extension of the U.S. Patriot Act. He used a device called the auto pen because the bill had to be signed before midnight Washington time.

NBC's Today Show:

7:15 am

CURRY: This morning President Obama signed a four-year extension on some provisions of the Patriot Act, including roving wiretaps and surveillance of so-called lone wolf terror suspects. Congress raced to pass the legislation just hours before the midnight deadline last night. The President signed the act using an auto-open, rather auto-pen machine that he's currently –  because he's currently in France attending the G-8 summit.

8:01am

CURRY: And in the news, Congress and President Obama barely beat the deadline and extended portions of the Patriot Act that were set to expire at midnight last night. President Obama, who is in France for the G-8 summit, used an auto-pen machine to sign the four-year extension which gives the government broad powers to to spy on terror suspects.    

9:01 am

CURRY: Congress and President Obama barely beat the deadline and extended portions of the Patriot Act that were set to expire at midnight last night. President Obama, who is in France for the G-8 summit, used an auto-pen machine to sign the four-year extension which gives the government broad powers to spy on terror suspects.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center