Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old who spilled the beans on the National Security Agency's snooping of Americans' phone records and Internet messages around the world, is being called a lot of things these days: whistleblower, traitor, hero. Here is a look back at other infamous figures whose controversial actions subjected them to similar scrutiny.
Julian Assange - The WikiLeaks founder rose to international fame in 2010 when his organization published a trove of military and diplomatic documents to the news media, which some U.S. politicians said put the country in danger by providing American enemies with classified information. The Australian national is currently holed up in an Ecuadorian embassy in London and was granted asylum by the Latin American country to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges, which he denies. Meanwhile, Bradley Manning, the U.S soldier who passed the cables to Assange is on trial for “aiding the enemy.” Assange calls Snowden a hero and said both he and Manning are "very serious, earnest young men who really believe in something, and have shown great courage, and there is no doubt actually that history will look on them extremely favorably and perhaps, in a few years, will liberate them from their predicament."
John Walker Lindh - The 29-year-old U.S. citizen fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan and was captured in a violent uprising against American troops in 2001 where a CIA agent was killed. Lindh, nicknamed the “American Taliban,” pleaded guilty in 2002 to serving in the Taliban army and weapons possession. "I provided services as a soldier to the Taliban last year. I carried a rifle and two grenades," he said. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison without parole.
Daniel Ellsberg - The media has compared Snowden to Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst credited with leaking a top-secret Pentagon study about the decision-making process during the Vietnam War. Ellsberg himself came out and praised Snowden on Monday writing in an op-ed piece that "there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material – and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago." Ellsberg, who became disenchanted with the Vietnam War, gained access to the classified documents, which revealed that the government lied about the potential outcome of the war. The study said the government knew the war could not be won and the casualty count would be higher than they first admitted. Ellsberg passed on the documents -- known in the media as the Pentagon Papers -- to the New York Times, which splashed it across the front page on June, 13, 1971.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg - The married couple were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and were put to death on the electric chair in 1951 for leading a spy ring that passed on top-secret information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. The couple became the subject of international debate during the Cold War with some protesting their execution while others feeling that they were dealt with justly. President Dwight D. Eisenhower echoed the sentiment of many Americans when he said, "I can only say that, by immeasurably increasing the chances of atomic war, the Rosenbergs may have condemned to death tens of millions of innocent people all over the world. The execution of two human beings is a grave matter. But even graver is the thought of the millions of dead whose deaths may be directly attributable to what these spies have done."
Tokyo Rose - American-born Iva Toguri D'Aquino moved to Japan during World War II and worked on the English-language propaganda show “Zero Hour,” a program that the FBI said was “part of a Japanese psychological warfare campaign designed to lower the morale of U.S. Armed Forces.” Tokyo Rose is a generic name that the Allied forces gave to the dozen or so female broadcasters on the program. D’Aquino was convicted of high treason in 1949 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. President Gerald Ford pardoned her on January 19, 1977 after it was discovered that several witnesses had perjured themselves.
Benedict Arnold - The American Revolutionary War general became a spy for the British and plotted to obtain and surrender the fort at West Point, N.Y., to the enemy. When the siege was exposed, Arnold defected to the British army during the height of the war in 1779. While his name has become synonymous with the word traitor, scholars argue his treasonous act was more complicated. He became disillusioned with the war’s progress and grew distrustful of his leaders, and ultimately Arnold himself felt betrayed, according to James Kirby Martin, a history professor at the University of Houston. "This was a man who began in 1775 as the most ardent of patriots," Martin told US News & World Report, "but he grew to feel that turning back to England would be the best course for the country."
Judas Iscariot - One of Jesus’ 12 Apostles and another name that has come to mean betrayer in many languages. He is known for betraying Jesus at the Last Supper, which led to Jesus' arrest and ultimately his crucifixion. There are several interpretations as to why Judas turned Jesus in, but the most prevalent explanation is that his weakness for money (he was paid thirty 30 pieces of silver) led him to the traitorous act.