Geof Stone on Edward Snowden
I was amused this evening to catch a glimpse of a CNN show asking this question, as if either characterization is correct. In my judgment, based on what I know from the media thus far, Snowden is neither a hero nor a traitor, but he is most certainly a criminal who deserves serious punishment.
I say this as someone who believes strongly in government transparency, but even more strongly in the orderly rule of law. Snowden knowingly accepted a position of trust in his relation to the government. He did not have to accept his job, but he did. A clear condition of that job was his voluntary agreement not to disclose any classified information - that is, information the disclosure of which could reasonably endanger the security of the nation.
The government cannot always attach conditions to employment. For example, it cannot constitutionally require its employees to agree never to criticize the president or never to get an abortion or never to invoke their rights under the Fourth Amendment. But it is well-settled that the government can require its employees to agree to some conditions, and one of them is not to disclose classified information.