Sunday, June 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: A better balance on security, privacy

Whatever one thinks of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, his revelations are leading to a welcome rethinking of how the country's intelligence community does business. A report by a presidential advisory panel released Wednesday and a ruling by a federal district judge Monday warn that American civil liberties are being compromised by the bulk collection of data on innocent people. President Barack Obama has said he is open to considering new constraints. Now he should implement the panel's key recommendations and urge Congress to do its part.

Civil liberties were shunted aside after the 9/11 attacks. The nation's spy agencies were given license to use the latest technology and data storage capabilities to find and track suspicious activities. The result — now known due to Snowden's leaks — is that with little oversight or accountability, they built a vast data dump of personal information on people who have no relationship to terrorism. Neither the president nor Congress was willing to act to protect Americans' constitutional rights.

But continuing along this path is no longer viable. This is not only because it endangers the privacy of Americans and erodes the public trust, but because the techniques have not been borne out as essential to keeping the nation safe.

The President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, which includes experts in national security, technology, privacy and the law, was charged with recommending ways to rebalance the scales. Its wide-ranging report offers a sensible way forward that would rein in the use of intrusive technology and bring back judicial oversight for government snooping.

For instance, the panel says that the NSA's telecommunications metadata program, which sweeps up all the communications logs of Americans and holds them for five years, should be radically reconceived. The data should be left with the phone companies or a third party, with access only by court order. This would end the dragnet-like searches that so offend the spirit of the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans from government nosing into their private information absent evidence of wrongdoing.

The panel calls for long-overdue changes to the operation of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has rarely rejected a government request for mass-data collection. It says the hearings should be adversarial with an attorney arguing for privacy and civil liberties, and no longer should the U.S. chief justice appoint all the court's members. That duty should be shared among Supreme Court justices.

One of its most consequential recommendations is to put an end to the FBI's ability to obtain Americans' financial, travel and other records without a warrant by use of an administrative subpoena known as a national security letter. The FBI issues thousands of these letters every year as a way to avoid judicial oversight.

Protecting America from terrorism is a vital national security interest, but the panel, as well as a federal judge on Monday who said the NSA's metadata program was probably unconstitutional, found that the data collection was not needed to prevent attacks.

The president can implement many of these recommendations unilaterally. He should do so. But it is also vital that Congress commit them to law to constrain future administrations. Civil liberties need to retake their rightful place as a pre-eminent feature of American life.

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Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

The Trump administration just can’t stop sabotaging Americans’ access to health care. Instead of giving up after it failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it continues to quietly undermine the law in ways that would reduce acc...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Parkland students set example for advocacy

Music is healing. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High School put that theory on display Sunday night in New York with their stirring performance at the Tony Awards — beautifully.The students, all from the school’s drama department, bro...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18