A few thoughts on Edward Snowden

Updated: Thursday, August 8, 2013
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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 13, 2015 17:10 GMT


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AB InBev has been trying for nearly a month to get its hands on SABMiller but its previous offers have met with resistance. On Monday, it was hoping that its latest offer, which valued SABMiller at 43.50 pounds a share -- 14 percent higher than its initial offer -- would finally win the day but it still upped its offer.


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The cutbacks announced translate into about 8 percent of Twitter's workforce of 4,100 people.

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Cutting costs can boost profits, but at Twitter, it has also raised uncertainty about the future and the company's desire for aggressive growth and the larger audience it has sought for so long.


Johnson & Johnson board approves $10 billion buyback plan

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The health care and pharmaceutical products company said there is no time limit on the program and it will be financed through the issuance of debt.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company had about 2.77 billion shares of common stock outstanding as of September 27.

"The board of directors and management team believe that the company's shares are an attractive investment opportunity and repurchasing stock is an important part of our capital allocation strategy," said Chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky, in a statement.

Its shares rose 13 cents to $96.12 in morning trading Tuesday as the company also reported mixed earnings results. Its shares are down about 8 percent so far this year.


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VW brand head Herbert Diess made the announcement Tuesday as the company struggles to overcome a scandal over cars equipped with computer software that let them evade U.S. emissions tests.

Diess said the company would change its diesel technology in Europe and North America and install technology that uses a urea solution called AdBlue to reduce diesel emissions. He said that change would come "as soon as possible."

He also said the company would extend its low-cost manufacturing techniques and reduce spending on investments.


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Wolfsburg chief executive Klaus Allofs tells news agency dpa that "I think it's understandable that we at least suspend it for now," referring to the planned 40-million euro ($45.5 million) project.

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Wolfsburg is heavily reliant on main sponsor Volkswagen for backing but the car giant is in crisis after U.S. authorities said it evaded emissions checks on 482,000 vehicles. The company put aside 6.5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) for recall costs and fines though the real cost is likely to be significantly higher.


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Entergy Corp. said Tuesday it is closing the only nuclear power plant in Massachusetts because of "poor market conditions, reduced revenues and increased operational costs."

The decision comes about a month after federal inspectors said they would increase oversight of the plant in the wake of a shutdown during a winter storm. The plant needs millions of dollars in safety improvements.

The plant was relicensed in 2012 for 20 years.

The timing of the shutdown depends on several factors, including further discussion with ISO-New England, the operators of the regions's power grid.

Entergy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Leo Denault said the decision to close Pilgrim was "incredibly difficult."


Washington Times