When the Snowden controversy erupted, it erupted because Snowden alleged that the NSA collected information on Americans in violation of law. But there is no law restricting U.S. intelligence gathering overseas. Greenwald and Snowden are not speaking out for legality. Snowden is the lawbreaker here, and his law-breaking is now being used to do damage to the United States as an end in itself. This isn’t civil libertarianism taken to extremes. This is the use of publicity as a weapon of sabotage. The analogy isn’t to Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon insider who leaked the Pentagon Papers and then met the government in court. (He won.) The analogy here is to Philip Agee, the ex-CIA officer who published a sensational memoir, revealed the names of names of covert CIA officers, and then defected to Cuba. One of those names was that of Richard Welch, the CIA station chief in Athens. Welch was murdered in December 1975 by a radical leftist faction.

When does whistle-blowing fade into sabotage? It’s no wonder Snowden skulks in Russia. His actions could not be defended in an American court, for one basic reason: they are indefensible.