I am neither a hero nor a traitor. I'm an American." —Edward Snowden
When the word "treason" is brought up in national headlines, one often thinks of Benedict Arnold, the former general in the Revolutionary War who switched sides to fight for the British after his plan to give up West Point to the Brits was made public.
More than 230 years later, that word is back in the headlines.
On Monday, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called Edward Snowden’s leak of sensitive NSA intelligence information an “act of treason.”
But did he actually commit the act?
Treason is legally defined as, “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere.”
But as Politico's Leigh Munsil reports, it's hard to say if Snowden has been treasonous.
“I do not believe it is treason,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told Munsil. “There is nothing to suggest that his motivation was to assist our enemies or a foreign power."
Turley said a more logical charge against the 29-year-old would be illegal disclosure of classified information and unauthorized removal and retention of classified information.
Feinstein wasn't the only politician to make accusations against Snowden.
House Speaker John Boehner called Snowden a "traitor" on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Tuesday, saying Snowden's actions put American lives at risk.2 comments on this story
In an interview with the South China Morning Post on Wednesday, Snowden said, "I am neither a traitor nor hero — I'm an American."
Only one American since World War II has been charged with treason. Adam Gadahn, a jihadist, was charged with treason in 2006, but has yet to be caught.
Editor's Note: The original version of this story posted on June 13, 2013, failed to properly follow our editorial policies. The story was shortened and links were added on Oct. 8, 2013 to fall within our editorial guidelines for aggregation.
Michael Smith is an intern in the news section of DeseretNews.com. A 2013 graduate of the University of Utah, he will be attending Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism in the fall.