Here's a surprise: Mainstream media liberals are split on whether Edward Snowden, currently residing in Russia courtesy of former KGBer Vladimir Putin, is a whistle-blowing hero or a treasonous leaker.

What everybody agrees on is that Snowden stole thousands of classified documents from National Security Agency and began a piecemeal leaking process to major media outlets.

The documents thus far leaked make it clear that in seeking to defend against terrorist attacks from abroad, NSA has developed an amazing domestic spying capability.

Snowden as hero

Leave it to the New York Times editorial board to defend Snowden as an admirable whistle blower whose revelations exposed official illegality.

Thanks to Snowden, the Times writes, Americans now know that NSA "collects information about their phone calls, their email messages, their friends and contacts, how they spend their days and where they spend their nights.

"The public learned in great detail how the agency has exceeded its mandate and abused its authority, prompting outrage at kitchen tables and at the desks of Congress, which may finally begin to limit these practices."

Snowden as goat

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus sees Snowden as "seized with infuriating certitude about the righteousness of his cause. Not for Snowden any anxiety about the implications for national security of his theft of government secrets, any regrets about his violations of a duty of secrecy."

Snowden misrepresents reality because "the existing oversight, while flawed, is not as feckless as Snowden portrays it, and the degree of intrusion on Americans’ privacy, while troubling, is not nearly as menacing as he sees it."

Marcus' bottom line is that Snowden's "theft was massive. The injury to intelligence-gathering is of equal magnitude."

Here's a question: Would Putin fete — or execute — a Russian Snowden?

On today's

Editorial: Supreme Court should uphold its class-action standards.

Cal Thomas: Time to change strategy in the war on poverty.

David Freddoso: Don't extend unemployment benefits.

Gregory Kane: The Chutzpah Awards for 2013.

Susan Crabtree: New year brings Obamacare coverage confusion.

Chuck Hoskinson: Grading Obama like a Harvard professor.

In other news

The New York Times: Markets buoyant, mergers accelerate.

The Washington Post: Hawaii Democrats divided in Senate primary.

CBS News: What will Congress do about the debt ceiling?

New York Daily News: Iranian family watches on laptop as daughter dies in U.S.

Boston Globe: More than two dozen doctors running for Congress on anti-Obamacare platforms.

USA Today: Book reveals new details about capture of the U.S.S. Pueblo.

Lefty Playbook

Talking Points Memo: Axelrod says Clinton will legitimize de Blasio as "no radical." GOP's 2014 horror strategy.

The Huffington Post: Papers push Snowden clemency.

Bonus must-read

Washington Monthly: The disneyfication of Tibet.

Righty Playbook

American Thinker: The Roberts trap is sprung.

National Review Online: Red dawn in Manhattan.

Powerline blog: Climate fools on stranded ship rescued.

Bonus must-read

The American Conservative: How the police became a standing army.