A few thoughts on Edward Snowden

Updated: Thursday, August 8, 2013
A few thoughts on Edward Snowden story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The flap over Russia granting asylum to Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, has led to President Obama canceling a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Some diplomatic analysts suggest that the matter is returning the relationship between the countrires to cold war status.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says it's a shame it's so serious, because it reads like a dark comedy.

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In case you've forgotten, Edward Snowden is a 29-year-old high school dropout who went on to get his G.E.D., take a few computer courses at a community college, get hired as a security guard for the NSA,  get promoted, and wound up working for a private information technology—I.T.--contractor for the U.S. government, living in Hawaii on an income of $200-thousand dollars a year.

While agents for the NSA were subjected to intense background checks, Snowden, with his limited IT credentials, was sort of just handed the highest security classification our nation has to offer and access to absolutely everything the NSA was doing. Everything!

And he didn't like what he saw. So after much consideration, which included the chucking of his own lifestyle, he blew the whistle.

He told The Guardian newspaper that he did so because he'd seen abuses—the framework, he said, for an architecture of oppression.

He said he could, on his own, as a computer specialist just sitting at his desk, wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, or even the President. All he needed was a personal e-mail.

Truly chilling, Orwellian stuff. And the NSA was doing it not only to whomever it pleased all over the world, it was doing it here in the United States as well.

Millions upon millions of personal bits of information were intercepted, stored, and ready to be examined at a whim—all in the name of national security.

Reaction was widely mixed. I have a brother who diminished it all, and immediately gave up fourth amendment rights, by saying, "It really doesn't bother me if the government knows I like pepperoni on my pizza."

And I have a friend who amplified my brother by saying, "Big deal. If you haven't done anything wrong, what are worried about?"

Both comments immediately bring to mind Benjamin Franklin's famous thought that if you are willing to forgo individual rights in the name of security—you deserve neither.

Let Snowden answer my brother:

"It's getting to the point where you don't have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you have ever made, every friend you've ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer."

All the classified information he gave to The Guardian—notice, he "gave," did not "sell;" and there was a lot of it—has inspired all kinds of debate in Washington.

Enough people there are sufficiently shocked, if not creeped out, to start thinking maybe, just maybe, the NSA is overstepping its bounds a bit.

So here we have a poorly-credentialed I.T. guy who tells the world the U.S. government is spying on them and its own citizens. In doing so he inspires congressional debate and a national dialogue.

He knows that his own country would like to lock him up, so he flees to Russia, where he gets sanctuary and is now looking for a job.

Now our president is also angry at their president who granted Snowden asylum—like we wouldn't—and cancels a summit meeting.

Meantime, we are repeatedly assured, and we have the word of our politicians on this, that all the stored information will be properly safeguarded and will never be abused.

Sure.

This from the same gang who hired a high school drop out to do some computer work -- and then gave him the keys to the kingdom.

With a little effort, we could stage a musical.

From this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on October 02, 2014 08:13 GMT

FINANCIAL MARKETS

UNDATED (AP) -- Financial markets got off to a rough start in October as disappointing economic news and Ebola fears drove stocks lower. Surveys indicated German and U.S. manufacturing had slowed last month.

Asian stocks fell Thursday amid similar anxieties.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index lost 1.7 percent to 15,815.45 points and South Korea's Kospi fell 0.9 percent to 1,973.31. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.7 percent to 5,295.7. Stocks in Southeast Asia also lost ground. Markets in Hong Kong and China were closed for a public holiday.

In New York, investors dumped airline stocks amid concerns that travel will decline because of the Ebola threat, and bought a handful of drug companies working on experimental treatments for the deadly disease.

Nervous investors shifted their money to havens like bonds and gold.

The blue chip Dow index lost 238.19 points, or 1.4 percent, to 16,804.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 26.13 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,946.16 and the Nasdaq composite lost 71.30 points, or 1.6 percent, to 4,422.09.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) --The Labor Department will report on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. Economists forecast that weekly applications rose a slight 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 298,000.

Also today, the Commerce Department reports on U.S. factory orders for August. In July, factory orders rose 10.5 percent, the biggest one-month increase on record going back to 1992.

Freddie Mac will report on average U.S. mortgage rates for this week. Last week, the average for the 30-year loan eased to 4.2 percent from 4.23 percent the previous week.

EBOLA-AIRLINES

UNDATED (AP) -- The first reported case of Ebola in the United States has caused concern among airline investors and is raising the prospect that some frightened travelers might stay home.

Details of the man's 28-hour trip from western Africa emerged Wednesday. He flew on two airlines, took three flights, and had lengthy airport layovers before reaching Texas on Sept. 20.

Still, federal officials say other passengers on the flights are at no risk of infection because the man had no symptoms at the time of his trip.

Thomas Eric Duncan left Monrovia, Liberia, on Sept. 19 aboard a Brussels Airlines jet to the Belgian capital, according to a Belgian official. After layover of nearly seven hours, he boarded United Airlines Flight 951 to Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. After another layover of nearly three hours, he then flew Flight 822 from Dulles to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the airline confirmed.

MINIMUM WAGE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department is following through on President Barack Obama's pledge to get the ball rolling on a higher national minimum wage in the absence of any congressional legislation to accomplish this goal.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez has finalized a federal rule raising the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors to $10.10 an hour.

Wednesday's move puts in force a step that Obama announced last February. The Labor Department said nearly 200,000 American workers will benefit from the new minimum, which takes effect Jan 1.

The minimum federal wage is now $7.25 an hour. Obama has proposed the higher pay level for all workers, but that has drawn resistance from Republicans in Congress. In announcing the new rule, Perez says that by raising the minimum wage for workers on federal contracts, the administration "is rewarding a hard day's work with fair pay."

STOCKTON BANKRUPTCY TRIAL

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- A federal judge dealing with the bankruptcy issue has struck at the sanctity of public pensions in California.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein ruled Wednesday that federal bankruptcy law allows the city of Stockton to treat pension fund obligations like other debts, meaning the city could trim benefits.

The city of Stockton argued that it must make its pension contributions for public employees before its creditors are paid the entire amount they are owned.

The case is being closely watched because it could help clarify who gets paid first by financially strapped cities around the nation -- retirement funds or creditors.

The ruling was prompted by a key creditor's contention that pension obligations should be treated like other debts.

DETROIT BANKRUPTCY

DETROIT (AP) -- Emergency manager Kevyn Orr has testified in bankruptcy court that when he took over Detroit's finances, he found a city with poor services for residents, next to no cash flow and significant neighborhood blight.

Orr, hired by the state in March 2013 to fix Detroit's finances, took the city into the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. He was called to the stand and questioned by a city lawyer in federal court in Detroit.

Judge Steven Rhodes is to decide whether Orr's plan to remove $7 billion in debt is fair to creditors. Orr has said Detroit's unsecured debt is about $12 billion.

Orr said Wednesday that before he filed for bankruptcy, every creditor wanted to be "paid in full."

DAIMLER ALLEGATIONS

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Oregon's labor commissioner has filed a complaint against heavy-duty truck and school bus manufacturer Daimler Trucks North America, alleging five employees at its Portland plant were subjected to racial slurs and threats.

A statement Wednesday from Commissioner Brad Avakian says the accusations will be investigated, and if they bear out, workers could be awarded damages including back pay if they've quit.

Among the allegations, according to the statement, is that a Daimler Trucks employee threatened a black co-worker with a noose, saying he'd drag the African-American behind a car.

A statement from Daimler Trucks said it doesn't tolerate discrimination and trains employees to avoid it. It also said the company is cooperating with the investigation and has hired an outside investigator to look into the allegations.

HEALTH OVERHAUL-RATES-MISSOURI

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A consumer group is suing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to obtain information used to justify insurance rates in Missouri.

The Consumer Council of Missouri filed the complaint Tuesday in federal court. The agency didn't immediately respond to an email to its press office seeking comment.

The consumer group says the new health insurance law requires the agency to make the rate information public so consumers have the chance to challenge the costs they pay for health insurance. But the suit alleges that HHS has denied its records request.

Missouri is one of several states allowing the federal government to run their health insurance exchange. The suit says Missouri is reliant on HHS for any information regarding health insurance plans to be sold in 2015.

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