There are a number of narratives being floated by the usual suspects to attempt to demonstrate that Edward Snowden is a traitor who has betrayed secrets vital to the security of the United States. All the arguments being made are essentially without merit. Snowden has undeniably violated his agreement to protect classified information, which is a crime. But in reality, he has revealed only one actual secret that matters, which is the United States government’s serial violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution through its collection of personal information on millions of innocent American citizens without any probable cause or search warrant.
That makes Snowden a whistleblower, as he is exposing illegal activity on the part of the federal government. The damage he has inflicted is not against U.S. national security but rather on the politicians and senior bureaucrats who ordered, managed, condoned, and concealed the illegal activity.
First and foremost among the accusations is the treason claim being advanced  by such legal experts as former Vice President Dick Cheney, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and  Senator Dianne Feinstein. The critics are saying that Snowden has committed treason because he has revealed U.S. intelligence capabilities to groups like al-Qaeda, with which the United States is at war. Treason is, in fact, the only crime that is specifically named and described in the Constitution, in Article III: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”
Whether Washington is actually at war with al-Qaeda is, of course, debatable since there has been no declaration of war by Congress as required by Article I of the Constitution. Congress has, however, passed legislation, including the Authorization for Use of Military Force, empowering the President to employ all necessary force against al-Qaeda and “associated” groups; this is what Cheney and the others are relying on to establish a state of war.
But even accepting the somewhat fast and loose standard for being at war, it is difficult to discern where Snowden has been supporting the al-Qaeda and “associated groups” enemy. Snowden has had no contact with al-Qaeda and he has not provided them with any classified information. Nor has he ever spoken up on their behalf, given them advice, or supported in any way their activities directed against the United States. The fallback argument that Snowden has alerted terrorists to the fact that Washington is able to read their emails and listen in on their phone conversations—enabling them to change their methods  of communication—is hardly worth considering, as groups like al-Qaeda have long since figured that out. Osama bin Laden, a graduate in engineering, repeatedly warned his followers not to use phones or the Internet, and he himself communicated only using live couriers. His awareness of U.S. technical capabilities was such that he would wear a cowboy hat  when out in the courtyard of his villa to make it impossible for him to be identified by hovering drones and surveillance satellites.
Attempts to stretch the treason argument still further by claiming that Snowden has provided classified information to Russia and China are equally wrong-headed, as the U.S. has full and normally friendly diplomatic relations with both Moscow and Beijing. Both are major trading partners. Washington is not at war with either nation and never has been apart from a brief and limited intervention in the Russian Civil War in 1918. Nor is there any evidence that Snowden passed any material directly to either country’s government or that he has any connection to their intelligence services.