- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

Jan. 17

The State, Columbia, S.C., on state hack:

The modern world and its computerized record keeping are quite convenient . and quite problematic, too.

We’d venture to say that most folks probably are not aware of how exposed they are to the tentacles of deceit and theft online.

It’s the world we live in, and we all have to cede a bit of faith that those who hold our interests at heart (and in computer files) are prepared to battle today’s legion of super-sophisticated hackers.

But that wasn’t what ran off with personal South Carolina files - again - late last year. It was an employee with a run-of-the-mill flash drive taking his or her mouse and dragging and dropping more than 4,000 files on current and former employees of South Carolina’s unemployment agency before security software detected the unauthorized download.

The downloaded data included names, addresses, birthdates, Social Security numbers and bank account information. It took four weeks for the state to let anybody know.


The massive hack of 2012, which exposed the accounts of 6.4 million South Carolina people or businesses to possible fraud, never seemed to receive the full attention of the government or the governor until too late. Even then the response was muddled, and the culpable parties were indignant to a degree. It was a colossal foul-up, and one we’d hope would result in better-managed and better-resourced measures being put into place to protect the personal information of state citizens.

All it’s really seemed to lead to are millions of dollars in contracts to credit monitoring services that taxpayers are paying for to clean up the debacle.

The unemployment agency hacker has been caught and fired, and the files have been retrieved. So unlike that first fiasco, at least the state knows who has been hacked and the information is in safe - we use that word extremely liberally - hands, although there are no guarantees the bank routing and Social Security numbers obtained haven’t already been compromised.

We do not pretend to know what’s in the mind of a cyber thief. We don’t know the capabilities they have at their disposal. As more and more breaches such as the recent Target hack come to light, we as a society might have to resign to the fact that there is no such thing as hacker-proof protection online.

But protection against a wayward flash drive? Grandma Pearl could probably figure that one out.

It’s about time South Carolina did so, too.




Jan. 18

The Herald, Rock Hill, S.C., on strengthen S.C. Freedom of Information Act:

While ethics reform, government restructuring and now education are likely to consume much of state lawmakers’ attention during the new legislative session, they also need to find time to address a bill that strengthens the state’s Freedom of Information law.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, won approval in the House, 101-1, in 2012 but stalled in the Senate in the final days of the session. Taylor re-introduced the bill last year, and hopes were high that it would pass.

But at a hearing on the bill in the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, offered an amendment that would have removed the section that exempted legislators from having to comply with the rules. That amounted to a “poison pill,” killing any chance it would pass.

Fortunately, the bill still is active for this session, and we hope lawmakers will resurrect it.

A strengthened FOI bill would not necessarily prevent all injustices. But it might help discourage governmental bodies from openly and brazenly ignoring the spirit of the law.

Rep. Taylor’s bill would reduce the time officials would have to respond to an FOI request from 15 to 10 working days.

It would hold fees for copying costs to the local prevailing rate. Governments have squelched FOI requests by charging exorbitant fees for copies of documents, sometimes thousands of dollars.

Under the bill, documents must be turned over to those making the request within 30 days, although more time is allowed for documents over two years old. The law currently sets no time requirement for delivery of documents.

The bill also sets up an appeals process for both citizens and public bodies through the Administrative Law Court. Currently, anyone who wants to challenge an FOI decision must hire an attorney and take the appeal to circuit court, which is costly and slow.

These are relatively minor changes in the law but ones that would solve many of the access problems now facing those who make FOI requests. The need is there, and we hope lawmakers make time to address this crucial bill this year.

We would hope that elected officials would understand that the public’s business must be conducted in public. We would hope elected officials would know who their bosses are. But, as the examples in Chester and Columbia point out, not all officials realize that.




Jan. 21

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., on good advice from ‘The Gipper’:

The United States and European Union announced Monday that they are easing economic sanctions on Iran. That would be reassuring if it meant Iran has really given up its pursuit of a nuclear arsenal.

But that would be naive.

The sanction loosening was prompted by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report, issued earlier Monday, that Iran has stopped its enrichment of 20 percent uranium, a stepping stone on the march toward “weapons grade” material.

Though that conclusion from the United Nations’ agency sounds like good news, keep in mind that as the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism, the Iranian regime still falls far short of trustworthy status.

Iran reached an interim agreement on its nuclear program with six world powers (including the U.S.) in late November. The accord called for negotiations to continue.

At the time that deal was struck, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu branded it a mistake of historic proportions. And even French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called it a “sucker’s deal.”

Like other critics, they insisted that easing sanctions will make it easier for Iran to surreptitiously persist in its long-term aim to develop nuclear weapons.

So before President Barack Obama places too much faith in the radical Islamic mullahs who run Iran, he would do well to ponder advice from a predecessor who engaged in successful arms control negotiations of his own.

George Schultz served Ronald Reagan admirably as Secretary of State. Two months ago in a guest column for The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Schultz recalled that his boss had some very clear views on negotiation strategy, concluding with this astute observation:

“The guy who is anxious for a deal will get his head handed to him.”

And Obama administration officials should keep their heads when negotiating with Iran.





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