Mr. Snowden put himself at great personal risk physically (from "extraordinary rendition" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E... and the like) and criminally (where he can have his liberty taken from him after some state action) and professionally (hard to work places where the US won't be looking for you).
That is just. What he did was to bring great pressure on the US government to act. 100's of millions of dollars worth of security blown. Years of effort destroyed. He acted against his oath and against his country. There should be very strong repercussions for his actions. It is not a thing he did lightly nor without great thought. I presume that BECAUSE of the physical, criminal and professional danger he thought VERY HARD.
Mr. Snowden acted knowing the dangers, to himself, to his country and to the citizens therein. He believed he had knowledge that others did not, that he had a duty to act as a result and that whatever the consequences to him personally, the good would outweigh the harm. Whether or not you agree that he acted wisely or not is what puts you in the hero / traitor camps. I believe there are gradations between the two. I believe Mr. Snowden falls there.
He is a hero in that he believed that lawmakers were being deceived by the NSA to approve acts that were against the Constitutional rights of the citizens of the United States. He believed that if they really knew what was going on they would stop the NSA from those actions. I believe he was correct: that the NSA was wrong and the authority they acted under was gotten from Congress under false pretenses. That makes Mr. Snowden, in my mind, a hero.
But I am an American with children that I wish to have sleep safely at night. It worries me that a person can do so much damage at such a low level of responsibility. I do not believe every whistleblower is right. I'm not sure it's something we should encourage. Because he did not use the channels already in place (with the Inspector General Act of 1978, Mr. Snowden could have attained the same goals at least in theory. http://www.dodig.mil/Programs/...) he could be considered a criminal. I blame him for not making the attempt.
There is a huge problem with the NSA in this country. Someone had to act. Someone did, in contravention to the law. Mr. Snowden acted by his own reckoning "selflessly." He knew he would pay the price. Thank you Mr. Snowden. You were right. But you can never come home again.