Monday, January 22, 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: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
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...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
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