Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: NSA spying goes too far

Edward Snowden's revelations on the extent of spying by the National Security Agency on foreigners, allies and Americans should be raising larger questions about the Leviathan surveillance state the United States has built. The NSA's giant information vacuum is diminishing America's standing, and distrust is tarnishing America's reputation, alienating world leaders and the country's most trusted allies.

Snowden's most recent release reveals that the NSA has been tapping into Google and Yahoo overseas fiber-optic cables — without the companies' consent or knowledge — and copying a vast flow of email communication and other personal data of foreigners and Americans. By gaining access to the servers of giant Internet companies abroad, the NSA bypasses legal restrictions on mass surveillance in the United States. The NSA is operating dangerously unmoored from legal oversight.

Most troubling for Americans is the NSA program that sweeps up domestic telephone metadata of millions of Americans. Senate bills would end the program or add constraints. But that is just one program within a $52.6 billion "black budget" for fiscal 2013 that funds 16 spy agencies and 107,000 employees with virtually no public accountability. President Barack Obama, who promised a transparent administration, has not reined in the surveillance colossus America created post-9/11. There has been no public discussion on protecting privacy and balancing that with security concerns. As the president has said, what is technically possible in the surveillance world is not necessarily what should be public policy.

America's surveillance programs may be tactically beneficial, though that is hard to tell with all the secrecy, but they are causing strains in vital strategic relationships. Obama is having to assuage European and other allies who are furious to learn that the NSA has been spying on 35 world leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave Obama an earful upon discovering that her cellphone was tapped. The fallout is causing Europeans to consider fining U.S. communications giants that cooperate with NSA spying.

To some degree everyone spies on everyone else, but America's obsession with collecting intelligence, coupled with its technological reach and storage capacity, has gone too far. People abroad and at home are questioning whether these are the actions of a representative democracy committed to civil liberties and open government.

Comments

‘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 ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
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: 2 hours ago
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