Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Bombing is a case for criminal court

Considering the chaos of the crime scene and the piles of evidence, it was a remarkable feat that FBI and local law enforcement were able to so quickly focus on the Tsarnaev brothers as suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. But not everyone is applauding the Justice Department. Some congressional Republicans are criticizing the decision to file criminal charges in federal court against 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. They want the administration to designate him as an enemy combatant and deny him basic due process, which would violate America's commitment to fair and impartial justice.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was one of the earliest to demand that Tsarnaev be treated as a war criminal. Now other Republicans, including Rep. Peter King of New York and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have made the same argument. But the investigation into Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan, who died during a shootout with police, has not unearthed any evidence to suggest that the men are part of al-Qaida or another overseas terrorist network. The fact that the brothers are Chechen and Muslim does not automatically implicate them in a wider terror conspiracy.

Graham and others are using the Boston bombing to paint President Barack Obama as weak on terrorism. But Graham knows, since he helped write the law governing military commissions, that turning over Tsarnaev to military custody would create a legal morass. As a naturalized American citizen, Tsarnaev is not subject to a military trial, and only noncitizens can be tried by military commission. Graham would have Tsarnaev sent from the FBI to the military to be interrogated without a lawyer, and then switched back to federal criminal court for prosecution. That would set a dangerous precedent.

To its credit, the Obama administration has stuck to its policy of prosecuting terror suspects who are American citizens in the federal courts. Tsarnaev is facing federal charges of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. He potentially faces the death penalty. Federal prosecutors have done a highly effective job putting terrorists away — convicting nearly 500 individuals on terrorism-related charges since 9/11. So far the military commissions have convicted only seven detainees.

A less clear-cut issue is the Obama administration's decision to question the severely injured Tsarnaev without initially providing Miranda warnings — those police-recited lines that remind a suspect of his right to remain silent and to an attorney. If the Miranda warnings are not given, any subsequent confession cannot be used as evidence at trial. But the administration claims that Tsarnaev's case fit an exception that allows interrogation if there is an urgent threat to public safety.

Had Tsarnaev been healthy enough to be questioned immediately upon capture, the exception almost certainly would apply, since the brothers could have planted other bombs. But that time has passed, Tsarnaev has a lawyer and the issue appears settled for now.

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Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 1 hour ago

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18