By noon Monday, CNN's story on Snowden had generated nearly 10,700 comments.
Some commenters are citing the Boston bombings and 9/11 to justify government monitoring.
Annie Mee said she was "impressed" with Snowden but "when people found out the Boston Bombers had been under surveillance by the FBI, people demanded to know why MORE hadn't been done. "So how do you want it, people? You can't have it both ways."
Snowden's actions are not tantamount to spying or aiding the enemy, argued a CNN commenter "Bacon2014."
"It's one thing to expose national secrets that are meant for foreign espionage. That's treason. That said, this man exposed a secret spying operation on US citizens - both innocent and otherwise. We have a Constitutional right against such intrusions. That's not traitorous ...
"I am all for punishing people who expose national secrets. I am very against the whole concept of WikiLeaks. But this is different. Exposing the government's violation of our constitutional rights is contextually the opposite of treason."
Some readers suggested those outraged by the government's program are being naive about terrorists.
"You'd prefer that terrorists operate in comfort with the knowledge that you'll be fighting for their privacy?" Jermaine in Atlanta said. "Why would you not want the US government to be able to have all the information it can have when it comes to protecting itself and its people?"
Gregory Keener shot back, "The threat of terrorism does NOT justify abandoning constitutional principals (sic) ... the invasion of privacy of millions without ANY reasonable suspicion for the vast majority."
While observers continued to debate, a person with a unique understanding of the situation appeared on CNN Monday morning.
Former FBI agent Coleen Rowley gained notoriety in 2002 when a scathing memo she wrote about the agency became public. She criticized the FBI for mishandling the investigation of terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui before the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Rowley said top bureau officials stymied a wider investigation into Moussaoui, then held in Minnesota on immigration charges. She also accused FBI officials of acting to "circle the wagons" after the attacks on New York and Washington. Moussaoui was later charged as a conspirator in those attacks, which killed more than 3,000 people.
Rowley was one of three whistle-blowers featured as Time magazine's Persons of the Year in December 2002.
"I'm sure (Snowden) has a healthy awareness of the bumpy road ahead of him," Rowley said, adding that she felt it was "sad" that "American truth tellers" have to go to another country.
But Rowley worked within the system, and that's what she says separates her from Snowden.