- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

April 1

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., on curbing NSA overreach:

The White House and a bipartisan Congress finally appear to moving in the right direction with plans to end mass telephone data collection by the National Security Agency.

If implemented properly, the plans will answer the main criticisms of the NSA program by ending the mass capture of all U.S. telephone “metadata” on a daily basis, the retention of this data by the government for five years and its availability to intelligence analysts without a specific judge’s order.

Telephone companies would be required to keep the metadata they collect on every call for billing and other company purposes for the 18 months already prescribed by the Federal Communications Commission, but with the added requirement that they keep it in a specific form required by the federal government to facilitate accountability.

Under the president’s proposal, intelligence agencies would have to get a judge’s order for a specific search before they could access any of the metadata. This is clearly preferable to the House proposal that a judge grant broad access and only review a query once it had been answered by a telephone company.

The government, in searching the databases, would be limited to two “hops,” meaning it could look for information on the initial suspect’s number, numbers it connected with, and numbers that the first “hop” batch of numbers connected with. While that is better than previous practice, it is still a pretty large universe of numbers, representing the phone records of many American citizens. The role of the federal Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in overseeing such searches will remain a critical safeguard.

The approach, while still sketchy, has won conditional approval from privacy advocates including the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The proposals still have to be enacted into law this year before existing authority, known as section 215 of the Patriot Act, expires. In the process, Congress needs to review other NSA programs that have taken an expansive view of the reach of Section 215, such as the alleged mass surveillance of emails.




March 29

The Herald, Rock Hill, S.C., on Emma’s Law needed to fight DUI in state:

To move Emma’s Law, a bill that would require many first-time DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their cars, through the powerful S.C. House Judiciary Committee, proponents had to compromise on the blood-alcohol level. If that is enough to gain the support of a majority of House members, it was worth it.

Emma’s Law, named after Emma Longstreet, a 6-year-old killed in 2012 by a repeat DUI offender, is designed to get tough on drunken drivers and reduce the carnage they cause on South Carolina highways. In 2012, the last year for which records are available, 358 South Carolinians died in DUI-related accidents.

South Carolina ranked seventh among the 50 states in sheer number of DUI deaths - not just the rate based on the percentage of the population. Clearly, the state needs to find new ways to clamp down on drunken driving.

The interlock device, which requires drivers to blow into a miniature Breathalyzer before they are able to start their cars, is used in 21 states, including South Carolina, for repeat offenders. But Emma’s Law would require the devices to be used by many first-time offenders as well.

Those with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent are considered legally intoxicated. Safety activists pushed to require first-time offenders who have a level of .12 percent or higher to install ignition interlock devices on their cars.

In the end, though, the committee agreed on a level of .15, meaning that fewer convicted drunken drivers would have to use the devices.

Critics accused lawyers in the Legislature, many of whom make money defending those charged with drunken driving, of raising the threshold too high. But the standard clearly delineates those who might just have had one too many from those who are well above the legal limit.

Lawmakers who supported the .15 threshold also noted that it is not simply an arbitrary number like .12, but one that already is a standard that applies in state law to license suspension.

This technology works. It effectively prevents people from driving their cars when intoxicated.

There’s no good reason not to use it for first-time offenders who far exceed legal limits as well as repeat offenders.




April 1

Aiken (S.C.) Standard on student-athlete decision opens flood of questions:

A recent ruling involving Northwestern University’s football team will likely be the first domino to fall in a series of legal battles against the NCAA, the organization that oversees most college athletics in the U.S.

The decision - rendered by the regional National Labor Relations Board in Chicago - opens the door for players at the school to become a part of the first college sports union, a decision that could completely change top-level university athletics.

Northwestern officials have said they will appeal to the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., but this is clearly only the opening act in the pay to play debate.

The current system of compensating student athletes isn’t perfect, and year after year the idea of true amateurism in college sports becomes more disingenuous as college athletics make millions of dollars. The television revenue alone generated by the March Madness basketball tournament, for instance, reaches nearly $700 million, none of which goes into the pockets of the players.

But as the discussion goes on, the possible solutions will get more muddled. For example, how much should a school give a star quarterback on the football team compared to a second string guard on the men’s basketball team?

Also, it’s not like student athletes aren’t already paid. No, they don’t get a paycheck from week to week, but free tuition, books and room and board are almost always on the table for those who attend college on scholarship. That’s a clear advantage compared to the students who have to scrimp and save to make their way through college.

Providing extra money for students also undoubtedly blurs the line between college and the pros.

However, is it fair to restrict someone’s earning ability if they’re qualified for the job?

The days of intercollegiate athletics wouldn’t necessarily be over, but they would diminish in viewership and profit.

As the NCAA looks for the best path forward and society becomes more concerned with the ever-increasing bottom line, it’s going to require more than the Band-Aid solution of an extra stipend. It will require a sweeping change that’s rooted in equality and integrity.



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