Most of those making the case that Snowden should "return to the United States and face the music in a court of law" regularly offer up (as an example for how whistleblowers should act) the story of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. But a better parallel exists.
Reporters like Hersh and Greenwald, coupled with leakers like Snowden, principled or not, may bring some pain, but they cleanse the democracy, or at least open it up to light. Sunshine, still, is the best disinfectant, even as it opens some wounds along the way.
If federal authorities want to see the data of an American citizen, they should be forced to come through the front door -- and only with a court order based on probable cause, as our Founders intended.
When a Chinese dissident breaks an illegitimate Chinese law the West applauds. When an American whistleblower reveals hidden crimes the accomplices of these crimes cry foul. Transparency in political matters is claimed only when the other has something to hide.
Leaders in House and Senate Intelligence Committees have defended the program, saying it's nothing new. To my mind, "Of course we're spying on you!" constitutes a new definition for government transparency.
The original revelations about spying on the AP have been overshadowed by the recent confirmations of the NSA's long suspected and extensive domestic spying activities. The opinion of the public appears to be strongly in favor of improved privacy protections.