Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Who will watch the watchers?

More details on the National Security Agency's massive surveillance programs continue to dribble out from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The latest revelation is that for years the agency was vacuuming up "metadata" logs of Internet communications without court approval, an action that so violates personal privacy that it sparked a showdown within the executive branch. This comes on top of Snowden's leaks about other NSA surveillance programs shocking in their breadth. The public has a right to know the superstructure of these programs, and Congress and the courts should strike a better balance between national security and privacy rights.

Snowden's release of a 2009 NSA inspector general report clears up that it was this warrantless sweep of Internet metadata logs, the record of where people go online, that was behind the dramatic 2004 confrontation in the hospital room of an ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft. James Comey, President Barack Obama's current pick to be FBI director, refused to reauthorize this executive branch program when he was temporarily acting as attorney general, and White House officials tried an end run. But four months after the program's suspension, it received court approval from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and was back on.

That court also has approved the capturing and storing of millions of domestic phone records of Verizon customers, information that would allow the NSA to create a vast profile of people based on their calls, including their political, religious and social affiliations. And court approval was received for a secret program named PRISM, in which the NSA sweeps up the Internet activities of foreigners.

Surveillance approved by a court is better than the Bush-era program operating without court oversight. But the FISA court has failed to act as a sufficient check. Gathering and storing the telephone data of potentially all Americans is an unprecedented assault on privacy. There is no legitimate legal basis for the government possessing this much revealing information, even if the government only examines a tiny fraction. Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the FBI to demand that businesses turn over user records relevant to a terrorist investigation, cannot be reasonably interpreted to include everything on everyone.

Congress has participated in this breach of public trust, with only a few members willing to raise cryptic warnings over the extent of surveillance. Now a bipartisan group of 26 senators has signed a letter to national intelligence director James Clapper demanding unclassified answers to a series of questions regarding the bulk collection of Americans' data. They want "an informed discussion" and a public one on the surveillance powers the government is claiming. Florida's senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, have not joined the letter. They should. Americans have a right to have a say on their privacy and understand how and why it is being compromised.

Comments

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Updated: 15 minutes ago

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17