This article examines the work of the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) in the 1960s. It examines how the activists and policies of the NCCL are accommodated within existing frameworks of political and social activism. Within this period the Council amalgamated traditional civil liberties concerns alongside a new human rights agenda seen as characteristic of emerging new social movements. This politics was pursued in a more formal manner than that envisioned by social movement theorists and was conducted by activists more representative of a narrative stressing the rise of the professional society than that of the middle class radical. The NCCL was representative of the activism of 'progressive professionals' occupying a space somewhere between the pressure group and the social movement. These expert activists can be found in a range of organizations in which they used the skills, expertise, knowledge and respectability associated with professional socio-economic status to promote and advocate left wing causes.