The Edward Snowden leaks were not wholly contemptible. Unlike it's now thoroughly clear Edward Snowden himself.
As tens of thousands of Russian troops threatened Ukraine, Snowden on Thursday played a set piece in Vladimir Putin's latest act of propaganda, appearing on a televised question-and-answer session with the Russian president. Snowden began with a denunciation of U.S. data collection practices and then asked Putin a timid question about Russia's policy on Internet surveillance. Putin responded, misleadingly, that Russia has laws restraining state security agents and judicial and political oversight of surveillance operations. The Russian president said he hopes hopes! that Russia never conducts intrusive data collection.
The Washington Post's Adam Taylor followed this exchange with a blog post listing many of the ways Putin's answer is dishonest about the unchecked Russian security state. But Putin's circle has been on a campaign to portray Russia as a bastion of freedom and respect for human rights, relative to Western governments' arrogant behavior against their rivals and their own people. It is theater, reminiscent of the way Soviet authorities used to sell the Russian people barely disguised lies about the West and about their own miserable system, deployed to mask Russia's outrageous behavior in Eastern Europe. Snowden just lent his star power to the act.