Certain death. That was a good one. He'll probably get his own talkshow on Fox or CNN.
The one thing I worry about with this sort of thing is the precedent it sets for future prospective whistleblowers. I agree with Snowden that what has been going on is atrocious. But I also worry that other people with an agenda or an ax to grind will follow suit and reveal far more sensitive information in terms of our national security that isn't quite as condemnable as this stuff.
A lot of what these agencies like the NSA or CIA is predicated on secrecy. The fact is that it DOES make things harder when certain things can't be kept secret. I wouldn't say that the current actions of the NSA are so important that they should not be revealed. But there are other things that they do that we don't know about that are FAR different in nature and SHOULD be kept secret so as not to endanger ongoing operations or, more importantly, agents and officers in the field. I think some of the stuff that has come about from the WIkileaks/Julian Assange issue falls under that category. I also felt that part of the Valerie Plame fiasco a while back also fell under that category.
My point is that if/when a guy like Snowden gets near-universal acclaim for his actions (which I think he deserves), others will see this and take similar actions in a less positive way. Most people who work as an agent for security agencies such as the CIA do so in an information-gathering capacity. They take files or transcripts of conversations between high-level diplomats or politicians or technical information and so forth from where they work and they give to an officer from a foreign security service. In virtually all cases, the agent giving this information out is doing so for monetary gain or due to some ideological motivation in which they feel they are doing their small part for the betterment of society. This was certainly the case in all the espionage and counter-espionage going on between the NKVD/KGB and the CIA/MI6.
Well, when someone gets caught acting as an agent in this capacity, they risk long prison terms and so forth. Those who are fortunate to escape, such as Guy Burgess or George Blake or Kim Philby, are forced to live in isolation from everything they knew and loved, especially their families, in many cases.
So, given that the mass-media age that we live in has the potential to turn someone like Snowden into a minor celebrity who can make significant money from his activities and the public and political pressure to keep him out of prison may accomplish just that, I fear that other people who might previously have consorted with an enemy security agency at a great personal risk, may simply reveal all this information publicly in a way that assumes much less risk and can potentially garner the same sort of rewards: money and knowledge that they have helped in their convoluted ideological war.
In other words, while Snowden should be hailed as someone who exposed a major hypocrisy in this country, I fear that these sorts of episodes may instigate more like them than what is good for the country.