Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Scaling back the drone war

President Barack Obama took a meaningful step forward Thursday by announcing tighter guidelines on the use of unmanned drones even as he strongly defended their use to fight terrorism. His transfer of some control of the drones from the CIA to the military is welcome, and so is his new willingness to consider independent oversight of the use of lethal force beyond reporting to Congress. The president has had too much discretion in deciding when to use deadly drone strikes, and it is time to place some checks on that authority.

In a sweeping speech at the National Defense University aimed at redefining the administration's fight against terrorism, Obama persuasively argued that America must remain aggressive in eliminating terror threats even as the war in Afghanistan winds down. Drones will continue to be a key part of that strategy, and the president reasonably explained why they are preferable to sending in ground troops and likely to produce fewer unintended casualties. But the drone program has been too secretive, and dozens of civilian deaths from drone attacks have been documented by outside groups. Even if Obama is given the benefit of the doubt on his judgment in when and where to use drones, there is too much unilateral authority left in the hands of the nation's president.

Obama described the drone attacks as legal and effective, although members of Congress have questioned both assertions. This week, the administration took responsibility for the first time for killing four Americans in drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan since 2009 — including Anwar al-Awlaki, who was involved in various terrorist plots and who the president said was the only specifically targeted American. Obama also was persuasive in declaring that while presidents should not deploy armed drones over the United States or target any U.S. citizen without due process, citizenship cannot be used as a "shield'' by Americans overseas who are intent on killing other Americans. "As president," Obama said, "I would have been derelict in my duty had I not authorized the strike that took out al-Awlaki.''

The new drone guidelines are more strict than those outlined in a Justice Department document released in February. For example, now lethal force will be used only against those who are "a continuing, imminent threat to Americans'' and cannot reasonably be captured. More significantly, Obama also said his administration will discuss with Congress options for outside oversight on drone attacks outside war zones. Those options include a special court to authorize lethal action or an independent oversight board within the executive branch. The administration has previously opposed such options, so opening the door to exploring them is a good first step.

Regardless of their flaws, armed drones are lethal weapons that remain a key part of the strategy in fighting terrorism. Many of the specifics of the program remain secret. But Obama provided some additional reassurance Thursday about their selective use, and his invitation for a broader discussion about additional oversight should be welcomed by Congress and the American public.

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Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

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Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last monthís deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Itís time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the courtís operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

The Hillsborough County transit referendum that has made the November ballot is significantly stronger than two efforts that failed to reach the end zone in the past decade. The one-cent sales surtax would generate enough money to meaningfully improv...
Published: 08/09/18
Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

The fight for medical marijuana in Florida should have ended with the resounding 2016 vote authorizing it in the state Constitution. Instead, the battle for access drags on, with Attorney General Pam Bondi waging the latest round in a lengthy legal b...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

They reach from South Florida to Tampa, from a high school to a college campus, from troubled kids to troubled parents. But there is a common thread connecting these tragedies: Florida has a mental health crisis. Addressing it would require spending ...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

A proposal to use local money to ferry workers to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa always has been a questionable idea. The loss of nearly $5 million in federal money toward the project makes it all the more suspect. Itís time the ferry supporters off...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Blood on the streets of Chicago

Blood on the streets of Chicago

A hot summer weekend, when Chicago should be at its most livable, brings an undercurrent of dread and horror to this city. Summer is block party season, beach season, baseball season. But in some neighborhoods, summer is killing season ó when armed g...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

A well-meaning but poorly designed effort to keep tobacco from children could sink a niche industry and end Tampa’s fabled history as a cigar-making capital. The Food and Drug Administration needs to recognize not all tobacco products are alike...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/13/18