Re: The sad fact is...
what Edward Snowden did is unquestioningly against the law. He wouldn't stand a chance in a US trial because of that simple fact.
Agreed. And I think a lot of those rushing into the debate are doing so with far too much emotion and nowhere near enough reason. Snowden broke the law, for which there are a well advertised range of penalties. He did so knowing what those penalties would be.
The real question here is whether what he did was right
It is important to understand that the law is not concerned with right and wrong. It is not concerned with the provision of justice. The law is only concerned with itself - what is legal and what is not. Sad, but true.
Snowden is guilty. There is pretty much zero doubt about it, because he has more or less said as much himself. The real question then, is to what extent he should be punished, and after that punishment ends, how can he be protected from retribution.
Snowden acted in good faith. I believe he considered what he was doing to be the morally correct course of action, and he seems not to have attempted to leverage that into a higher standard of living for himself. The counterpoint is that there is no doubt he has caused his country a great deal of embarrasment and fiscal loss or expense.
We, the normal folk in the world, simply don't have enough evidentiary standard information to determine how much benefit or harm his actions have brought to society, to us, and so we're not in a position to weigh where on the punishment scale is appropriate to his actions. I think Ed is a good man, but he's no hero to me. He did what he thought was right, knowing he could never go home. Big balls, and worthy of respect. But there's no pardon coming, and I'm pretty sure he would never have expected there would be. Stay safe Mr Snowden, stay in Russia.