Friday, January 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Prudence in face of terrorism risk

The Obama administration's decision to close U.S. embassies and consulates across the Middle East and North Africa and issue a worldwide travel alert is a prudent response to intelligence suggesting an impending terrorist attack. The exact nature of the plot isn't known, but terrorist communications — including from Ayman al-Zawahri, the man who took over for Osama bin Laden — indicate a serious threat. Better to temporarily close the diplomatic posts and be prepared for the worst than to ignore the signs.

Intelligence officials picked up electronic communications between Zawahri, who is believed to be in Pakistan, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, who leads al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen and has been dubbed the "general manager" of the overall terrorist organization. It was believed an attack led by Wuhayshi was to take place last Sunday. To protect American lives, the State Department ordered 19 U.S. embassies and consulates closed, including those in Yemen, Libya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Diplomatic posts will stay shuttered through at least Saturday due to the ongoing concern over an attack.

No attack occurred Sunday, but that does not mean the Obama administration overreacted. The U.S. action may have deprived al-Qaida of a rich target, heightened vigilance that plugged a vulnerability or scared the attackers off for the moment, as counterterrorism experts postulate. American officials say the plot was one of the most serious uncovered since 9/11. It comes after al-Qaida has been under sustained assault by U.S. drone strikes and other offensives that have decimated its leadership.

But successfully intercepting the communication of known terrorists is not a basis for justifying all of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. On a Sunday talk show, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, "If we did not have these programs, then we simply wouldn't be able to listen in on the bad guys." Chambliss is confusing two programs — one that monitors international communications and one that sweeps up the calling data of Americans. Senators with knowledge of the classified elements of the domestic telephone metadata collection program say it has had very little intelligence value relative to the privacy intrusion.

Part of the administration's rapid response to the vaguely outlined plot is a reaction to what happened after four Americans were killed in September during an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Congressional Republicans claim the State Department was indifferent to security issues there. This week, the administration is being clear that it does not underestimate threats. Embassy closures are appropriate in the short term. But in the long run, the American people have to understand that there is no absolute security.

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Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18