Monday, February 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Judge reins in federal snooping

A federal judge's ruling that the National Security Agency's massive collection of American phone records is probably unconstitutional is a positive move toward reining in the nation's surveillance state. For the first time since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's disclosures, a federal court determined Monday that the NSA is likely violating principles of privacy. The ruling, which will be appealed, reflects the need for federal law to be updated to reflect modern technology and still maintain constitutional protections against dragnet-type searches and seizures.

Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the technology used by the government to sweep up all the country's telephony metadata is "almost Orwellian" in its reach and "almost certainly" violates any reasonable expectation of privacy. This is the standard used to determine whether Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures are violated. Leon, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, granted challengers a preliminary injunction to prevent the continued collection of their bulk metadata and destroy what had been collected. He stayed his opinion in light of the national security interests involved to give the government time to appeal.

The government claims the program is not unconstitutional based on a 34-year-old Supreme Court precedent that has long been eclipsed by technological advances. In the 1979 case of Smith vs. Maryland, the court said no warrant was needed when police obtained a person's phone records using a device called a pen register. The court argued that this metadata collection didn't violate the Fourth Amendment because call records are business records held by a third party, the telephone company, and are not expected to be private.

But as Leon points out, this scenario bears almost no relationship to the NSA program, which began in 2006 and allows the government to collect and store all of the call records of Americans in searchable form for up to five years. This kind of indiscriminate, bulk collection of information on Americans when there is no evidence of wrongdoing is precisely what the founders sought to prevent, having been victims of much-despised general warrants themselves.

Leon also dismissed the government's claim that because it only searches and analyzes data connected to suspected phone numbers, the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against dragnet-type searches is not violated. In fact, as the judge noted, the NSA looks at communications records that are three "hops" from the target phone number, which could in each case result in the phone activity of a million or more innocent Americans being analyzed.

If the program were essential for national security, that could outweigh the privacy interests at stake. But Leon said the government did not "cite a single instance" where the data collection was key to stopping an imminent terrorist attack.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has approved the program over the years, but it did so without benefit of hearing from anyone representing citizen privacy. Leon heard those arguments, and he came to the appropriate conclusion.

Comments
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18
Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

While it came as little surprise, the Tampa Bay Raysí selection of an Ybor City site near Tampaís Channel District as the best spot for a new stadium is an important milestone in the effort to keep Major League Baseball. Now comes the hard work of de...
Published: 02/09/18
Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

After pummeling public education so soundly last year, itís little surprise Republican state legislators are mounting another attack on public schools, teachers and local districts. The mammoth education bill passed by the House last week is loaded w...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/13/18