Snowden's "reward" is to be banished in Russia without a snowball's chance in hell of a fair trial if he returns to America. But as he courageously declared, "I would rather be without a state than without a voice." He explained why he leaked classified information: "I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."
To recognize Snowden's contribution to liberty, it helps to review the political and legal landscape before his revelations. In 2008, Sen. Barack Obama's denunciations of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretaps secured his image as a champion of civil liberties. Campaigning for president, Obama pledged "no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens…. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient." Unfortunately, Obama didn't promise not to ignore the law when it was "really, really convenient."