Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: NSA reforms may not be good enough

President Barack Obama finally has acknowledged that the nation's spying operation needs to be reined in, and his proposals represent measured progress on protecting individual privacy. Ending government control of the phone data of millions of Americans as he suggests and his order that requires a special court's order to access the information are positive steps. But there is more work to be done to better balance national security and individual liberty.

Obama recognized in a major speech Friday that technology is outpacing the law. As a former lecturer on constitutional law, he understands what is at stake when a secret surveillance operates outside public accountability or controls. But while he embraces more checks, he remains unwilling to undo a surveillance apparatus that is intent on vacuuming up ever more private communications and data.

The president's most significant proposal involved changes to the National Security Agency's bulk collection of telephone records. For years, the NSA has been collecting and storing the records of all domestic telephone traffic, information that includes the originating and receiving phone numbers, the location of calls and their duration. The agency uses the metadata to track the phone contacts of suspicious targets and will examine records up to three "hops" away from the original suspect, which could draw NSA scrutiny to a massive number of innocent Americans.

Effective immediately, no longer will the NSA have access to the metadata without an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court based on reasonable suspicion. This is welcome judicial oversight, although the secret court has proven to be too friendly to administration data collection efforts. Obama is also reducing the "hops" to two and promising that the government will no longer be the repository of bulk phone records. An alternative will be established by March 28, when the authorization for the current program expires. These are reasonable steps, but they fall far short of ending the program of bulk data collections on innocent Americans.

One of the reasons the Edward Snowden revelations were such bombshells was the intense secrecy surrounding the existence and breadth of NSA spying. No national debate over government intrusion can occur when Americans are kept entirely in the dark. Obama wants to pull back the curtain a bit and declassify the secretive court's rulings that have broad privacy implications. He is directing that an annual review be conducted for that purpose.

One essential reform requires Congress to establish a panel of outside legal advocates who will appear on behalf of privacy rights and civil liberties interests before the court on significant cases. This would make the court more sensitive to individual rights as it weighs new surveillance authorities.

There are many places where Obama should have offered more sweeping changes. For instance he is not recommending that administrative subpoenas called "national security letters" be subject to judicial oversight, as they should. But Congress could press for this and for greater limits on the wholesale collection of bulk data. At least now the long-anticipated conversation has begun.

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Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17