History’s Most Famous Traitors

Source: FBI / Getty Images

Robert Hanssen (1944-present)

Robert Philip Hanssen is a former FBI agent who spied for Soviet and later Russian intelligence services from 1979 to 2001. He was apprehended on Feb. 18, 2001, in Virginia, and charged with selling U.S. secrets to the U.S.S.R. and then Russia for more than $1.4 million in cash and diamonds. Hanssen was responsible for one of the worst security breaches in U.S. history.

When the FBI asked his motivation for his treachery, Hanssen said it was only for profit.

Hanssen was responsible for outing Dmitri Polyakov, a Soviet general who secretly worked for the U.S.. Polyakov was also sold out by another American traitor, Aldrich Ames, a CIA counterintelligence agent. Hanssen is serving 15 consecutive life sentences in a federal prison in Florence, Colorado.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

John Walker Lindh (1981-present)

John Walker Lindh’s odyssey to fight for the Taliban in war-torn Afghanistan is one of the most curious cases of treason on this list. Lindh is the son of a corporate lawyer and commercial artist who grew up in Northern California. During his teenage years, he converted to Islam after reading an autobiography of Black Muslim leader Malcolm X. He enrolled in a religious school in Pakistan and studied Arabic in Yemen.

He was drawn to the extremist Taliban and joined them in their fight against the anti-Taliban coalition the Northern Alliance in 2001. Lindh was captured and turned over to the U.S. In a plea bargain with federal prosecutors, Lindh pled guilty to charges of supplying services to the Taliban in violation of U.S. sanctions and carrying weapons while committing a crime. Lindh was sentenced to 20 years in prison in October 2002.