Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: A better balance on security, privacy

RECOMMENDED READING


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.

Comments

Another voice: Time for Republicans to denounce this tax nonsense

Mick Mulvaney, the phony deficit hawk President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the nation’s budget, all but admitted on Sunday that the GOP tax plan currently before the Senate is built on fiction. Senators from whom the public should expect more — s...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nation’s highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17