In light of yesterday’s posts (see here and here) on how the press misreported Wednesday’s court decision allegedly striking down part of the Patriot Act, it is worth pointing to the first item on the Corrections Page of today’s New York Times:
An article yesterday about a judge’s ruling to invalidate some federal surveillance powers referred incorrectly to a subpoena statute that was struck down. While the statute – authorizing the use of subpoenas known as national security letters – was amended by the antiterrorism legislation called the USA Patriot Act, it was not created under that act. It was enacted in 1986 and amended several times, including once in October 2001 under the Patriot Act, to expand its application. The judge’s ruling analyzed and struck down the statute as a whole, including provisions that predated the Patriot Act.
The correction also appears at the end of the electronic copy of the article available on the Times website, along with a header in bold at the top of the article that announces “Correction Appended.”
The correction is misleading in a way: it does not point out that the statute was invalidated for reasons unrelated to the Patriot Act amendments. At a minimum, I would change that last sentence to read, with my change in bold: “The judge’s ruling analyzed and struck down the statute as a whole, including provisions enacted under the Patriot Act.” Still, the correction makes a decent effort to clarify the facts. Good for the Times. I haven’t checked to see if other papers made corrections, but I suspect very few have.
UPDATE: The Washington Post has run a correction as well:
A Sept. 30 article said that a federal judge in New York found a key component of the USA Patriot Act unconstitutional. At issue in the case was the Justice Department’s use of “national security letters,” a type of administrative subpoena that allows federal agents to demand records from businesses and prohibits the companies from revealing that the demands were made. While the Patriot Act loosened restrictions on the use of the letters, most of U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero’s ruling focused on earlier statutes governing the letters.