Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Falling short on privacy

President Barack Obama acknowledged in a news conference before his vacation that greater openness and added safeguards are needed for the massive surveillance programs conducted by the National Security Agency. The president said he understands concerns about potential abuse and presented a series of reforms. But Obama is not calling for substantive changes in the way the NSA spying programs operate, and his commitments fall short of adequately addressing privacy concerns.

The administration has been doing damage control since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, now a fugitive in Russia, leaked information that the agency was collecting American telephone "meta data" and much of the world's Internet traffic, including communications between people overseas and in the United States. The revelations sparked members of Congress from both parties to call for limiting the programs and boosting the ability of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is charged with overseeing spying operations, to be a more potent watchdog.

Obama vowed to work with Congress to add greater oversight to the phone records collection program, possibly through new constraints on the use of Patriot Act authority, among other promising reforms. But it also takes empowered courts to limit government spying. Currently, only the Justice Department appears before the FISA court, resulting in predictably one-sided rulings. In the last three years, the court approved every one of the 5,180 surveillance requests placed before it, with one FISA application withdrawn and modifications made to 40 more.

The court effectively put no limits on the collection of vast databases of domestic calling logs — information on what phone numbers were called and received from specific phone lines, when, and for how long — under a provision of the Patriot Act that lets the government collect business records relevant to a terrorism investigation. (This is the provision Obama singled out to say he would be open to new constraints.)

Obama recognized the concerns that the court "only hears one side of the story" and called for an advocate in the FISA court to argue against the Justice Department in cases that propose an expansion of spying authority or adoption of a new program. That would be a welcome development, and it demonstrates the president is hearing the criticism that dragnet NSA surveillance programs ignore traditional limits on government spying. But the proposals don't go far enough, and Congress should demand more when it returns from its August recess.

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Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
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