If "whistle blowing" is simply informing a lot of people of things they didn't previously know he certainly qualifies, no doubt about it.
Can anybody think of a way that it could be supervised without exposing all it's operations?
Why would you want to keep these operations hidden? At this point it is obvious to me that our government is well beyond being capable of being honest. I think the entire NSA needs to be scrapped and "terrorism" surveillance needs to be put into the hands of the FBI and CIA with the explicit direction that each case is handled according to the laws of our Constitution. That means the requirement of a warrant to spy on citizens (domestic or foreign) and collect their mail, phone calls, texts, email, or any other personal communications they engage in. Collecting everything to look for something is not acceptable.
I'm curious if you defended the Patriot Act when the Bush administration lawyers deliberately issued perverted interpretations of US law in order to open the doors to this insanity?
There is a need for secrecy in catching bad guys and affairs of state. Jefferson's code still hasn't been (officially) broken, but that he had one shows what some think they are entitled to isn't something that has just been robbed from them. The Japanese one was broken though, and the need to keep that a secret is pretty obvious. Check out Giuliani's take-down of the NY crime families some time for another example.
Obviously, the potential for abuse is there. Always has been, always will be. The US is unique in having it's current system of judicial oversight, and that's obviously not perfect either. I am honestly at a loss to think up something better.
I didn't defend the Patriot Act, but that is besides the point. It made the things Bush did legal, and while I don't believe all of them have to be, they are, and my opinion of them doesn't change that. I think it's key in shaping ones understanding of what Snowden is revealing. Many seem to think he is revealing illegal activities.
As I've said many times - I'm torn about the NSA thing. On one hand, I think they are doing really good work and doubtless have prevented some attacks. I've personally worked with them on overseas Ops and they have some amazing capabilities.
OTOH, the scope of the domestic spying is what troubles me the most. While they might be doing anything technically illegal - I do think they are violating the spirit and intent of the FISA laws. The problem I see is that they are essentially collecting everything electronic and then supposedly they only actually analyze a small portion of the data. While on the surface, that might seem reasonable.... the fact that all that data is there if someone wants to abuse it makes it far too tempting for someone not to eventually abuse it. Also, the intent of the 4th Am is that you have to have probable cause to violate someone's privacy. Under this NSA broad policy of sucking up of all the trons going across the cell phone towers and internets - that privacy is being violated without any cause other than its there.
And whether or not someone is acutally reading your emails or texts is irrelevant. The fact that it IS stored in some data wharehouse under the control of the gov't and accessible at anytime HAS an ABSOLUTE chilling effect on freedom of speech and on privacy rights. We all joke about be careful of what you say in an email or text because the NSA is reading it..... but its not really a joke anymore. The fact that we modify our behavior (no matter how slightly) wrt to what we say, write or text because we know what we say is being recorded - absolutely has a chilling effect on speech.
I don't know what the answer is either. But I would say it starts with better oversight. The fact that Congress and even some members of the intel oversight committees seemed surprised at the scope of these programs tells me that there wasn't a lot of good oversight going on. I would also say the FISA court needs to be much more robust and involved and not be allowed to just issue blanket collection warrants. I think warrants need to be much more narrowly tailored to specifics rather than broad collection and storage.
In summary - while I absolutely see a need to possess these kinds of capabilities by our gov't and those capabilities do NOT need to be made public, I think we need to have better controls on those who collect and use that data. Imagine if J. Edgar had the NSA capes back then..... It could have been REALLY ugly. And just because we fortunately don't have a J, Edgar Hoover in power now doesn't mean that we will never have one. But more importantly, the chilling nature of these programs on our speech and privacy need to be addressed. I don't think the public needs to know everything the NSA is doing or how. But they need to have confidence that they aren't being spied on without a damn good reason. And we don't have that confidence right now. That confidence needs to be restored ASAP, or the relationship between the people and its gov't will continue to erode and the outcome will be ugly.