I'm pretty sure releasing classified government documents is a crime, and a more serious one than selling trade secrets. I don't agree that he has done anything morally wrong, but if the law says it's a crime then it's a crime, even if I personally don't think it should be. So again, I don't want anything bad (worse) to happen to him - quite the opposite, I think what he's doing is good and important - but that doesn't make what he did legal.
Side question: which laws were violated / which laws describe the deed as a punishable act?
Snowden is innocent until proven guilty. But with that said there are laws against disclosing classified information that he intentionally broke. He might have had good reasons to break the law but that is a different story.
Ultimately it comes down to what a Jury believes. Since he is a civilian he will be tried in civilian court most likely not military court, though Obama has ruthlessly used the “military secret” claim to suppress a lot of civil court proceedings involving terrorism policies, so that might happen here to.
So ultimately it is up to a jury to decide whether or not Snowden is guilty. Did he break the law? Yes. Will he be punished? That is hard to tell.
Is this essentially similar to a programmer first working for a company with a signed NDA, but then moving to a competitor and transferring knowledge?
In order to get security clearance you must sign forms and contracts. I am sure there is a a huge no disclosure contract that he signed and broke.
In the UK he would be bound by the Official Secrets Act. Although it is refereed to as "signing the Official Secrets Act" the signing has nothing to do with being a contract. If he agrees to it or not he is still bound by it. So even if he saw documents that he should not have seen he would still not be a liberty to say anything about them if they are secret.
@Fredbill30: I hate to seem like a jerk for quoting and linking you, but I just wanted to clear things up and point you in the right direction. :)
Capital punishment is a legal form of punishment in the U.S. state of Washington. A total of 110 executions have been carried out in the state and its predecessor territories since 1849. All but three were by hanging.
What about when a killer gets the death sentence? Shouldn't the family members be able to see the execution of the guy that killed their loved one(s)? It might be gruesome but I am sure to many it gives them a tiny bit of closure. You can call me sick or whatever you want but if someone killed one of my family members and they got the death penalty I would definitely be there to watch it. But on the reverse side I believe the death penalty should be reserved only for the most brutal of crimes.