Inside Story Americas

Is Obama going beyond Orwellian?

We examine if American security measures are going too far.

Last Modified: 11 Jun 2013 15:17
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Edward Snowden has revealed himself as the source of leaked information on a secret US spy programme that harvests internet and phone records of US citizens and foreigners.

The government would like to shift the conversation to accuse other people of wrongdoing, when it is their own wrongdoing that should be discussed and examined before the American people.

David Colapinto, a lawyer who has represented a number of whistleblowers

The former CIA worker says he has leaked the details of the US National Security Agency's surveillance programme to 'protect basic liberties for people around the world.'

Snowden is now in Hong Kong. A spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence says the case has been referred to the US Department of Justice where it will be treated as a criminal matter.

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Snowden made clear he was fully aware of the risk he has taken. But that he had no choice but to act.

"I'm no different from anybody else. I don't have special skills, I'm just another guy who sits there day to day in the office, watches what's happening ... This is something that's not our place to decide, the public needs to decide whether these programmes or policies are right or wrong, and I'm willing to go on the record to defend the authenticity of them, and say I didn't change these, I didn't modified the story ... This is the truth, this is what's happening, you should decide whether we need to be doing this," he declared.

So are American security measures going too far? What will happen to Edward Snowden? And will there now be reform of the US's surveillance operations?

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, discusses with guest: David Colapinto, a lawyer who has represented a number of whistleblowers.

Walmart's working conditions 

Walmart is one of the world's largest corporations, and it held its annual meeting on Friday. Protesters took to the streets calling for better conditions for employees and increased worker safety throughout the supply chain, following a deadly factory fire in Bangladesh. But the meeting was designed largely as a celebration.

Workers have called attention to issues in Walmart International supply chain including in Bangladesh around safety, and the right to organise for safety around issues in Walmart warehouses, from clean drinking water to wages.

Josh Eidelson, a journalist for the Nation

Inside Story Americas spoke with one of the protesters, Jeremy Castle. He is a Walmart worker in Louisiana who has worked for the company for more than a year, and he told us: 

"I ended up at Walmart because I didn't go to college ... I loved my job .... I believe respect goes a long way in life. You have to give respect to earn it... Respect is one of my biggest concerns. There's no way around. You can have a manager and your manager is really disrespectful. You're working for somebody that doesn't appreciate what you do, it takes a lot out of you."

The retail giant reported sales of $466bn last year. Walmart employs 2.2 million people worldwide.

The wealth of just six members of the Walton family, heirs to the Walmart fortune, is more than the household income of 41 percent of American families combined. The average Walmart worker makes an average of $8.81 an hour.

However, a new congressional report revealed that Walmart is actually costing taxpayers millions of dollars per year:

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce analysed data from Wisconsin's Medicaid programme and found that subsidising healthcare for Walmart employees costs the state at least $900,000 per year per Super Store.

That is about $5,815 per employee at a single Walmart Super Center store. Those numbers have motivated California lawmakers to pass a law that would fine Walmart $6,000 for every fulltime employee that enrolls for its Medical programme.

So why are the people protesting? Is it just about wages? And what changes does Walmart need to urgently implement? 

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, discusses with guests: Josh Eidelson, who covers labour issues for The Nation magazine; and  Stan Veuger, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.


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