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 November 26, 2014 08:35 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The list of economic reports expected this morning is longer than usual with everything shutdown for Thanksgiving tomorrow.

The Commerce Department releases October figures on durable goods orders, personal income and spending as well as new home sales. The National Association of Realtors will release its pending home sales index for October, while Freddie Mac issues its weekly report on mortgage rates.

The Labor Department's weekly look at jobless claims also comes a day early.

From the corporate world, Deere & Co. reports its quarterly financial results before the market opens.

OBAMA-SMOG

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration will propose tightening the amount of a smog-forming pollutant in the air.

People familiar with the proposal tell the Associated Press that the EPA will recommend lowering the limit for ground-level ozone to 65 to 70 parts per billion, down from a 75 parts per billion standard set in the 2008.

The proposal will be announced today to meet a court-ordered Dec. 1 deadline.

The stricter standard makes good a campaign promise Obama made during his first run for the White House: to reverse President George W. Bush's decision to set a limit weaker than scientists advised.

In 2011, facing re-election, Obama scrapped an EPA plan to tighten the standard after Republicans and industries said it would hamper the economy.

HP STRUGGLE

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Venerable tech giant Hewlett-Packard has been struggling for three years to turn its business around. Its latest earnings show it still has more work ahead.

While CEO Meg Whitman has decided to split the company in two, she has said it will take a year to disengage the sluggish printer-and-PC division from faster-growing units that sell commercial tech hardware, software and services. Meanwhile, HP reported Tuesday that its sales fell 2 percent in the most recent three-month period, marking its 12th revenue decline in the last 13 quarters.

And there was little comfort in a new forecast issued Tuesday by market research firm IDC. It predicts the global PC market will shrink 2.7 percent this year, instead of the 3.7 percent drop forecast earlier.

TWITTER-OFFERS

NEW YORK (AP) -- Twitter is expanding its reach into commerce with a new tool called "Offers."

Advertisers can post promotions and discounts in users' Twitter feeds, whether or not Twitter users follow those merchants.

To redeem an offer, customers enter their credit or debit card information. They can use the same card to redeem the promotion in a store. It only works in the U.S. but may be available in other countries in the future.

San Francisco-based Twitter says it will encrypt and store the credit card information but users can remove it any time

The short messaging service has slowly been branching out into shopping. It launched a "Buy" button in September that lets users make purchases or donate money to charities without leaving Twitter.

THANKSGIVING AT WORK

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A lawmaker in Ohio wants retailers in the state to pay triple wages for employees who work on Thanksgiving -- an effort that comes as Macy's is allowing its workers to choose whether to work that day.

Both are attempts to counter frustration among workers and their families over holiday store hours that have expanded into the holiday.

State Rep. Mike Foley says his bill would allow employees to bow out of the holiday shift without sanctions. It comes after a federal complaint said Wal-Mart illegally fired workers protesting holiday working conditions last year.

Macy's, Wal-Mart and two dozen other major retailers open on Thanksgiving Day say consumers demand it. A spokesman says working the holiday is optional for Macy's employees this year. Those who work will be paid time-and-a-half.

HSBC-SEC

WASHINGTON (AP) -- HSBC will pay $12.5 million to settle regulators' charges that its private-banking business based in Switzerland violated U.S. securities laws.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday that the private-banking unit failed to register with the SEC before providing brokerage services and investment advice to U.S. clients. The SEC says HSBC Private Bank began doing so more than 10 years ago and collected fees totaling about $5.7 million.

A representative for HSBC, Europe's largest bank by market value, could not be reached for comment.

According to the SEC, HSBC Private Bank decided to exit the U.S. cross-border business in 2010.

EGGS-RECORD PRODUCTION

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- The egg is on a roll. It has never been more popular as a fast-food restaurant breakfast staple and its appeal has broadened far beyond the day's first meal.

High demand has kept egg prices at record levels, even as production soars.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Iowa, the nation's leading egg supplier, produced a record 1.4 billion eggs in October, up 4 percent from a year ago. Egg prices have broken records for the past 10 days, with the Midwest price reaching $2.18 a dozen on Monday.

Restaurants have broadened their menu offerings including eggs, with quick-service restaurants adding more egg-white sandwiches and eggs showing up as toppings on pizza and hamburgers.

People also use more eggs around the holidays as families cook and bake at home.

COAL LEASE LAWSUIT

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- Conservation groups are suing the government to force federal officials to undertake the first broad environmental review of the government's coal-leasing program in decades.

Friends of the Earth and the Western Organization of Resource Councils filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

It's being paid for by the philanthropic foundation of Microsoft founder Paul Allen.

Supporters of the lawsuit said there hasn't been a comprehensive review of the government's coal program since 1979. That's before climate-changing gases produced by burning coal emerged as a significant public concern.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has been reviewing its coal-leasing program since a government investigation last year revealed officials accepted below-market bids in some coal sales.

BLM spokesman Jeff Krauss declined to comment on Tuesday's lawsuit.

SHIP AGROUND-SETTLEMENT

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