Friday, April 20, 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years, the court approved every one of the 5,180 surveillance requests placed before it, with one FISA application withdrawn and modifications made to 40 more.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: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region won’t make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Florida’s citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nation’s health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18