This article in The Economist summarizes most of the issues relevant to this whole Edward Snowden debacle. Their attitude is that the amount of secret surveillance going on in the US, as suggested by the current news cycle, makes democracy difficult. It’s worth a skim just to make sure you’re not missing some chunk of the debate and recent history. The Economist is about as much a disinterested third party as I can think of.
I think the whole thing can be summed up with their final section heading – trust but verify. History proves that blind trust of government is naive. After all, the government consists entirely of people (the same type that participated in the Stanford prison experiment). At the same time, complete distrust of government is only the realm of paranoid conspiracy-theorists. After all, the government consists entirely of people (many that are the same type of people that are totally friendly to you every day).
Democratic governments must balance the need to keep certain secrets while enabling informed voter decision making. You must demand the ability to verify (sometimes only secondarily) that your government is trustworthy, and you must hold your government accountable (voting, questioning…) when they fail to be trustworthy or fail to permit that verification. That’s what voting is for.