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.


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.


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, 2015 17:45 GMT


WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. hiring slowed sharply last month and previous job gains were revised lower amid a broad slowdown in the global economy.

The Labor Department says employers added just 142,000 jobs in September as manufacturers and oil drillers shed workers. Hiring in July and August was revised lower by 59,000.

The unemployment rate remained 5.1 percent, but only because more Americans stopped looking for work. The proportion of Americans working or searching for jobs fell to a new 38-year low.

Average hourly wages also slipped by a penny and have risen a tepid 2.2 percent in the past year.

U.S. consumers are spending at a healthy pace, boosting job gains in sectors like retail and hotels and restaurants. But lackluster growth overseas has sharply reduced exports of factory goods.


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Orders to U.S. factories fell in August by the largest amount in eight months, led by a drop in demand for commercial airplanes and weakness in a key category that tracks business investment spending.

The Commerce Department says factory orders declined 1.7 percent in August after a slight gain of 0.2 percent in July. It was the biggest setback since orders dropped 3.7 percent in December.

Demand in a key category that serves as a proxy for business investment slipped 0.8 percent in August, following solid gains of 1.9 percent in July and 1.5 percent in June.

Manufacturing has been under stress this year as a strong dollar has hurt export sales. The big fall in energy prices has also resulted in cutbacks in investment by energy companies.


NEW YORK (AP) -- Wal-Mart has laid off 450 workers at its headquarters as the world's largest retailer attempts to become more nimble to compete with the likes of Amazon.com.

There are about 18,000 people who work at the headquarters Bentonville, Arkansas. The cuts were across all areas, from finance to global e-commerce. The company says that the employees were spoken to individually early on Friday.

The cuts follow months of rumors about job headquarters cuts and they were announced a month and a half after Wal-Mart cut its annual earnings outlook.


BERLIN (AP) -- Volkswagen subsidiary Audi says customers in Germany can now go to its website to see if their vehicles are among those installed with software that the company says was used to manipulate U.S. emissions testing.

Audi said Friday that customers in Germany could enter their car's serial number on the www.audi.de site to see if their car is affected. Audi says the function will be extended worldwide over national Audi sites in the coming week.

The company says customers can also go to Audi dealers to check on their vehicles, and that a fix will be presented to authorities in October.

Affected are some 2.1 million Audis with the 1.6 or 2 .0 liter TDI diesel motors with the designation EA 189 that are approved for the EU5 emissions standard.


BERLIN (AP) -- A German industry group says that German car exports were up 7 percent in September compared with a year earlier, while new registrations of cars at home climbed 5 percent.

The VDA group said Friday that German manufacturers exported 417,800 cars last month. It didn't give a breakdown of the destinations but pointed to rising demand elsewhere in western Europe.

In Germany itself, registrations of both German-made and foreign-branded cars climbed 5 percent to a total 272,500. VDA said that new registrations of diesel cars accounted for about 47 percent of the total and were up 8 percent.

The group didn't break down the number of cars sold at home and exported by individual manufacturers. News of the Volkswagen diesel emissions-rigging scandal in the U.S. emerged Sept. 18.


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's state TV is reporting that Royal Dutch Shell and France's Total will be the first foreign companies to be allowed to operate gasoline stations inside Iran.

The Press TV English-language channel quotes the head of Iran's filling stations union, Bijan Haj Mohammadreza, as saying 100 new licenses have been issued to each company.

Until now, the only retail service stations belonged to the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company.

The agreement comes after Iran and world powers reached a deal in July that curbs the Persian country's disputed nuclear program in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions.


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- A regulatory agency says the nation's first offshore wind farm has experienced safety and welding problems and regulators are closely monitoring construction.

Deepwater Wind is building a five-turbine wind farm off Block Island, Rhode Island.

Inspection reports cite near misses with dropped objects, personnel working under suspended loads, the use of older cranes poorly suited to the environment and the repeated failure of rigging equipment.

The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council says the safety problems have been addressed.

It's working with Deepwater Wind to ensure the problem with the welding process is only a paperwork issue. The welds passed inspections.

Deepwater says it's confident in the project's progress.

Construction began in July. The wind farm is expected to generate power by the end of 2016.


PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- Some fishermen say Maine regulators' plan to place new restrictions on the scalloping industry is the right way to ensure the fishery keeps rebuilding.

Maine's meaty scallops are prized in restaurants and fish markets. Fishermen caught more than 4.9 million pounds of the scallops last year, up from less than 700,000 pounds five years earlier. Catches sometimes topped 10 million pounds in the 1990s.

Fishery managers say the scallops need additional protections along the state's southern coast. They want to close some spots to fishing and reduce the number of fishing days from 70 to 60 in the area.

Portland-based scallop fisherman Alex Todd supports the restrictions. He says fishing pressure on scallops is up because prices have been high.

Washington Times