A few thoughts on Edward Snowden

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.