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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 31, 2014 07:28 GMT

WORLD-FINANCIAL MARKETS

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average surged 5 percent and the yen slid against the dollar after the Bank of Japan unexpectedly announced new stimulus to boost a flagging economic recovery.

Other Asian stock markets were also higher after the Japanese central bank's announcement Friday. The dollar rose 1.2 percent to 110.64 yen.

The bank said it would increase its asset purchases by between 10 trillion yen and 20 trillion yen ($90.7 billion to $181.3 billion) to about 80 trillion yen ($725 billion) annually.

The Nikkei was up 4.6 percent at 16,380.11 after shedding some of its initial gains. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.2 percent and Seoul's Kospi was up 0.1 percent.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Today. the Commerce Department will release its September report on consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity in the U.S.

Also, the University of Michigan will issue its monthly index of consumer sentiment for October. In September, the index reached its highest level since July 2013, led by greater optimism that the economy will grow and incomes will rise.

The Labor Department will also release the third-quarter employment cost index.

Before the market opens, Exxon Mobil will report its quarterly financial results.

CITI-REVISED EARNS

NEW YORK (AP) -- Citigroup is slashing its third-quarter earnings by $600 million, saying that recent investigations by regulators have altered the results it reported earlier this month.

The New York-based bank on Thursday revised its quarterly net income to $2.8 billion from a previously reported $3.4 billion, citing legal expenses.

The bank's operating expenses rose from $12.36 billion to about $13 billion.

The company said in a statement the unexpected increase came from "rapidly-evolving regulatory inquiries and investigations, including very recent communications with certain regulatory agencies related to previously-disclosed matters."

Citi previously reported third-quarter net income of $3.44 billion, or $1.07 per share, on Oct. 14. The results exceeded Wall Street estimates.

Like other major banks, Citigroup has been the target of lawsuits and government investigations for its role in the mortgage meltdown that helped spur the financial crisis of 2008.

SURGICAL GOWNS LAWSUIT

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A lawsuit says Kimberly-Clark Corp. falsely claimed its surgical gowns met the highest standards for protecting against Ebola and other infectious diseases.

Lead attorney Michael Avenatti says the Texas hospital where two nurses contracted Ebola used to stock the gowns but it's not clear if the nurses had used them.

The $500 million fraud suit was filed Wednesday in federal court in Los Angeles on behalf of a surgeon who wore the gowns.

The lawsuit says Kimberly-Clark knew for a year that the gowns failed industry tests and allowed the transfer of bodily fluids, bacteria and viruses, but the company still promoted them as having the highest level of impermeability.

The maker of Kleenex and other consumer products says it doesn't comment on lawsuits but stands behind its products' safety.

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