I am among those who have thought of Edward Snowden as a hero. I certainly think that we are in a better situation now that the public has more information about government surveillance. And I imagine that whatever his precise circumstances has been, Snowden has shown considerable and admirable courage - considering that the most likely outcome for him (acknowledged by himself in the first interview) is that he gets to spend the rest of his life in a supermax prison.
However, we can not be certain of his motives. Neither of the details in his story. It is always very useful when ideas you feel strongly about (e.g. "Edward Snowden is a hero") are analyzed and challenged. Today I read an article that did just that, and since it might do the same for you, I want to recommend it:
Jan Kallberg outlines an alternative story about how Snowden might have arrived in the public eye. His take on it is provocative and seemingly insightful. Basically he says that the official story is to good to be true, but if you assume that Snowden was recruited by the FSB and is releasing information on their behalf, things start to make sense:
Let us instead ask if this way of telling the story is more accurate: Snowden aired dissent in online forums and social media, was identified by Russian intelligence and then approached. Snowden was at that point disappointed with the US government and, with the right compensation, he was ready to jump. They gave him an offer: money and secure way out after they ensured a free passage through China to make it less obvious. The Russians already had all the knowledge about the NSA activities Snowden revealed. This information had been gathered through still-active Russian spies within the US classified environment, cyber breaches and traditional intelligence gathering. The FSB operatives had the whole package, the classified documents and the game plan, when they met Snowden in Hong Kong. The rest is a well-orchestrated drawn out spreading of the information FSB had.
I have no idea whether or not Kallberg's theory is likely to be true, but assuming it is - what would the consequences be? I have not really thought this through, but if it turned out that the information releases have all been part of a Russian psy-op, I suppose that I would no longer consider Snowden to be a hero. However, I also suppose that my basic reflection would still be valid, i.e. the public is better of having the information than not having it, even if some or all of it is edited for FSB propaganda purposes. I take the fact that the US government has denied precious few of the allegations as an indication that most of the information is accurate.