Sunday, June 24, 2018
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.

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Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18