Sunday, April 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Government surveillance overreach unchecked

Since 9/11 the nation's surveillance agencies have used a wider net to intercept international communications of potential threats. It was a step too far when Congress authorized a 2008 expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that removed most constraints on the government's ability to sweep up international communications that include Americans. A ruling Tuesday by the U.S. Supreme Court that prevents a group of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists from challenging the law shuts the courthouse door on an effort to protect Americans' privacy rights and diminishes the system's checks and balances.

Among those who sought to challenge the law's constitutionality are lawyers who represent Guantanamo detainees, human rights researchers who track down people rendered to other countries by the CIA, and journalists whose sources are people who have been suspected terrorists, their families and associates. The plaintiffs asserted it is highly likely their communications with their overseas contacts have been intercepted by the National Security Agency acting under the 2008 FISA changes. Even if that is not the case, they say, they have still been harmed by the law because they have had to pay the costs to avoid the possibility of the government overhearing their conversations, flying to face-to-face meetings and other expensive precautions.

But that logic did not win the day. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the 5-4 majority that included the court's four conservative justices and Justice Anthony Kennedy, said that since the plaintiffs could not demonstrate they had been surveilled, they did not have the legal standing to bring suit.

Of course, the NSA surveillance program is highly classified. It is impossible for the plaintiffs to know whether their calls, texts or emails have been intercepted. And there's the difficulty. If no one can know if they have been victimized, no one can bring suit and the law is immune from legal challenge.

The decision relinquishes the duty of the judicial branch to ensure that the rights of individuals are not trampled by the other branches and that the rest of government acts consistent with the Constitution. It dangerously puts the court's imprimatur on tactics that both the Bush and Obama administrations have employed to keep potentially illegal government activities associated with national security from being reviewed.

While the law still requires the government to obtain a warrant from a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, it strips away much of the court's oversight. No longer does the government have to describe specific targets of the surveillance, permitting a scattershot approach. The changes allow the government to scoop up the communications of thousands of people or more, including Americans, without any individualized suspicion that they are involved in terrorism.

By refusing to let Americans who might be harmed by this law bring their case to court, the court's conservative wing has sent the president a message that there will be no legal consequences for running roughshod over rights.

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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
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: 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

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
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: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 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...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
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