Wednesday, April 25, 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: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

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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: 6 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