Editorial roundup

The (Toledo) Blade, June 8

… China has agreed to invest $46 billion in Pakistan to create an energy and transportation corridor that would link the northwestern Chinese city of Kashgar with the southern Pakistani port of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea …

China needs convenient and reliable access to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Chinese ships now use the Strait of Malacca, a narrow passage between the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia. The proposed route would give China access to the Persian Gulf region and the Middle East …

Pakistan is not safe for foreign workers. To assure the safety of Chinese workers, Pakistan has to address the decades-old insurgency in its Baluchistan province, where Gawadar is located.

The Pakistani army has assured China that its workers would be safe. The promise of economic prosperity in Baluchistan would dampen the insurgency, if not eliminate it …

The Chinese-Pakistan deal has forced Pakistan and Afghanistan to reassess their stances toward each other. The Pakistani spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence, has signed an agreement to train Afghan army personnel …

China may end up doing more to curb militancy and terrorism in the region with its proposed energy corridor than other global actors — including the United States — that have been engaged in the region for 36 years.

Online: http://bit.ly/1MBzGmL

St. Cloud Times (Minn.), June 9

USA Freedom Act should make you shake your head

The good news — if you can call it that — is for the first time in 15 years a majority of federal lawmakers last week supported reducing the spying powers they allow the NSA to have on the very voters who elect them.

The bad news is those powers remain at levels unimaginable prior to 9/11. The worst news? Most Americans apparently don’t care enough to do much more than shrug at the adoption June 2 of the USA Freedom Act.

Think about its very name for a moment. The USA Freedom Act is literally as much an oxymoron as its parallel predecessor — the Patriot Act.

The USA Freedom Act still allows roving wiretaps, “lone wolf” surveillance authority, secret courts and other mass-spying tools granted to the National Security Agency under the Patriot Act, various executive orders and other legislation issued as far back as the 1970s.

Yet the latest change is labeled the USA Freedom Act — and heralded by all sides as an important victory for freedom — because it can claim one major victory: It no longer allows the NSA to collect Americans’ phone records and Internet metadata in bulk.

The act ends the practice of major cellphone and Internet providers routinely turning over to the NSA all their records of customers’ phone calls and Web use. While the content of those communications was not provided to the NSA, the details about numbers called, locations, metadata, etc., clearly gave the government plenty of personal information.

Under the Freedom Act, the NSA still can access those records. First, though, it will have to get a warrant — from a secret court.

While the court proceedings are not public, the Freedom Act does seek to shed at least a little light on the rulings of these secret courts established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. As The Washington Post reported, companies not only have more options to publicly report FISA requests, but court opinions considered significant are to be declassified, either in full or summary form.

Such reductions in NSA access and legal steps to provide more transparency in secret courts are why some privacy proponents are championing the Freedom Act as a big victory in the battle to stop our own government from spying on its citizens.

They are correct in that it is a victory. Only time — and the level of apathy Americans show about being spied upon — will determine whether it’s big or small.