Excellent post.The NSA's activities are programs created by law, supervised by the judicial system and implemented by the executive branch- that's checks and balances. We can argue the morality of something, but morality and legality are different terms. Snowden violated the law and is therefore now a fugitive. He is no whistleblower for he neither followed protocol to classify as one; nor did he expose illegal activities.
I'm not ok with anything per se; am simply being rational. In the age of digital communications one can reasonably expect the NSA's activities to fall within their domain and area of operations. The collection and analyzing of information in this case is SIGINT, an intelligence discipline as old as communications- we're no longer listening thru walls, we just pickup fragments of data and try to piece together what is happening.
Corporations do this all the time; it's called advertising. Google reads your email in order to place an ad; Groupon reads your phone's GPS to get you a discount, all are examples of data mining thru the use of technology. The NSA isn't trying to listen or read your communications to sell you something, they're trying to find the next crazy guy plotting harm to the US and our interest... That's what they were created to do. What do you think they do, play Xbox with the Russians??
Governments are always spying on one another; it's a tradecraft worthy of its own thread, and yes, in the process of implementing policy we do things that some men would find immoral: we've helped overthrow governments, even democratically elected ones (Guatemala, Iran etc); create insurrections in foreign lands; recruit foreign spies to steal information for is etc. We may even rendition unlawful combatants into obscurity, sometimes they may even get treated questionably, if not by us, but by those we outsource these tasks to. All of these things can be classified as shadowy, immoral and even unethical, but within the context of global balance of power these are but necessary evils needed to preserve the status quo that so favorably affords the feeble minded people who question the very existence of such structure, the freedom to exist and question it. That's the irony; people don't appreciate what it takes to keep the spokes attached to the wheel. It's not pretty, it's not glamorous, but someone must do it.
People like Snowden have betrayed the very system that has afforded him the luxury of taking a breath and in the process has harmed the work of thousands of well intended people.
He is, and will always be a coward. He has no backbone to speak off.