When you talk about traitors in US history, Benedict Arnold is often on the top. The dictionary defines treason as “attempting to overthrow the government of the state to which one owes allegiance, either by making war against the state or by materially supporting its enemies”. The ten people we talk about here gained “popularity” for betraying their country.
Let’s take a look.
Aldrich Ames started his career working for the CIA. He worked for the agency during his high school year. He continued working for the CIA until 1994. At that point, he got unmasked as a Soviet double agent. Aldrich sold the identities of CIA agents to the KGB.
To this day, we cannot estimate the damage done by Ames. Per some estimates, he exposed more than 100 agents. Ames has direct responsibility for the death of at least 10 agents.
For his espionage career, Ames earned more than $4.6 million.
He confessed his guilt following an agreement to reduce his wife’s sentence. Ames got life imprisonment, while his wife got only 63 months in prison.
Can you imagine the popular and famous actress getting labeled as a traitor? Well, during the 1970s, many in the US considered her a traitor.
You have to remember that in the 1970s, the US got stuck in the middle of a war with Vietnam. During the height of the war, in 1972, Jane visited North Vietnam and shilled for the North Vietnamese government. She said that American prisoners of war got fair and humane treatment. Fond also condemned all US soldiers as “war criminals”.
Upon her return to the US, she encountered no legal or professional repercussions. But she later admitted to regretting her action in Vietnam.
Tokyo Rose is not a single person. It is a collective nickname for women who worked for Radio Tokyo during World War II. The radio played songs, but the women served as a source of Japanese propaganda. They wanted to make American soldiers nostalgic for returning home.
Iva Toguri D’Aquino remains the most recognizable among the women. She worked for Radio Tokyo between 1943 and 1945. She got arrested after the war, but then she got released.
In 1948, she got arrested again and sentenced for treason. During the trial, Iva denied allegations of disloyalty to the US. Prosecutors couldn’t present any radio broadcast as evidence against her.
Iva spent six years in prison. President Gerald Ford pardoned her in 1977 after evidence against her turned out false.
For some people, Edward Snowden remains a hero in American culture. For others, he challenges Benedict Arnold as the biggest traitor in American history.
Born in June 1983, Snowden is an American whistleblower. He copied and leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency in 2013. At the time, he worked for the CIA, and his disclosures revealed global surveillance programs run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance.
It prompted a cultural discussion about national security and individual privacy. Following his disclosure, the US Department of Justice unsealed charges against him for violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property.
He remains in exile to this day.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
In 1953, Julius and Ethel got executed, the first civilians to get executed under Section II of the Espionage act.
The government accused them of passing secrets about the atomic bomb to Russian agents. The secret information came from Ethel’s brother who worked on the Manhattan project.
At the time, many considered their trial as “the trial of the century”. Many Americans still believe the two got wrongfully tried. Yet, declassified information from Russia supports the claim that Julius served as a courier and recruitment agent for the Soviet Union.
Aaron Burr was an American Vice President. Today, you can see many movies and TV shows depicting a traitor Vice President. But at the time, that didn’t happen. Following his duel with Alexander Hamilton, he noticed that his political career came to an end.
Aaron believed that a small army could steal Louisiana away from the US. He contacted Britain’s ambassador and offered to help Britain take the territory. He wanted money and ships in return.
Burr sent the infamous Cipher Letter to General James Wilkinson, at the time serving as Commander-in-Chief for the US Army. In it, he detailed the plot and requested his services.
But Wilkinson believed that the plan would fail, and rattled him out to President Tomas Jefferson.
Robert is a former FBI agent who also spied for the KGB and the Russian secret services. And he managed to spy for the KGB for 22 years between 1979 and 2001.
During his career, he compromised several investigations and operations, including the surveillance of Felix Bloch. Hanssen also identified many Russian agents who contacted the FBI for the KGB.
In 2001, Robert pleaded guilty to 13 counts of espionage. He got sentenced to life in prison, and now serves in the safest American prisons. He spends 23 hours a day in his cell.
Nidal Malik Hasan
Nidal served as a US Army Major. A week before he would have deployed to Afghanistan, he committed the infamous shooting at the Fort Hood military base.
Prior to the shooting, he had repeatedly expressed extremist views. The government and agencies even monitored his e-mails to Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who we know as the Bin Laden of the Internet.
Because of political correctness and slow-moving investigation, Hasan murdered 13 people and wounded 30 others.
During the attack, he didn’t wear his army uniform. Instead, he got dressed in traditional Muslim clothing.
John Walker Jr.
In 1967, John Walker Jr. sneaked into the Soviet embassy in Washington with a unique proposal. The US Navy Communications Officer had a proposal to sell US secrets to the Russians. He offered them the settings for the KL-47 cipher machine, used to decode messages from the US Navy.
John had strictly financial motivations. In exchange for money, he gave KGB secrets for 17 years, including positions of American nuclear submarines and procedures the US follows in the case of launching nuclear missiles into the USSR.
If you walk about US traitors, nobody comes close to Benedict Arnold. His name remains synonymous with disloyalty.
During the American Revolutionary War, he started in the Continental Army. Later on, he defected to the British Army. But while working as a general on the American Side, he served as Commander of the West Point in New York. He offered to surrender it to the British.
The plot came to light, and he then joined the British Army as a brigadier general. Today, many believe he got frustrated over lack of promotion and others taking credit for his achievements.