Top 10 Traitors


Some do it for love, some do it for money or politics: these people sold out their countries, their comrades…even their own families…changing the course of history forever. Here is our list of Top 10 Traitors.

10. Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes old artwork

Guy Fawkes was part of a revolutionary group of Roman Catholics, who plotted to blow up most of England’s aristocracy in 1605. The infamous Gunpowder plot was foiled by authorities who caught Fawkes before he could carry out his murderous intentions: he was apprehended due to his attire of cloak, boots and spurs, a suspicious costume designed to ensure a quick getaway.

Fawkes and his colleagues worked hard at their plot, using a cellar under The House of Lords as their base, and hiding over 1800 pounds of explosives in the small space.

Fawkes and his co-conspirators wished to loosen the influence of the Spanish kingdom on British affairs, feeling that they drained resources from England.

Guy Fawkes believed in his ideals, and he didn’t break, even under torture, refusing to name his comrades until he was sure they had already confessed. He was sentenced to by hung, drawn, and quartered in 1606, but foiled authorities by jumping from the scaffold to his demise at the last minute: even in death, he was crafty and mischievous.

His story is referenced in the film, V For Vendetta. To this day, the rebellious acts of Guy Fawkes are legendary, and the English have a special event each year, Bonfire Night, every fifth of November: it celebrates the failure of his notorious plot.

9. Robert Hanssen

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Hanssen grew up in a dysfunctional home, suffering abuse at the hands of his father. He started a career as a police officer in Chicago, but left to pursue employment as an FBI Special Agent in 1976.

Hanssen had strange proclivities: his interest in videotaping his sexual activities with his own wife, and showing them to neighbors, put him well outside the mainstream. In 1979, he became involved with FBI counterintelligence, and this paved the way for some of the most treasonous acts in American history.

In 1983, Hanssen transferred to the Soviet espionage unit within the FBI. Using his vast knowledge of computers, wiretapping, and electronic surveillance, he went on to sell lists of FBI double agents and other moles to KGB agents for large sums of money.

Hanssen was turned in to the FBI by his own brother-in-law, Mike Hauck: he is currently serving a life sentence, in solitary confinement, at ADX Florence, a supermax facility in Colorado.

8. Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda grew up as Hollywood royalty, surrounded by luxury and privilege. After an easy entrée into the acting world, greased by family connections and her own good looks, Jane became a passionate activist, involving herself in causes that were controversial and, in the eyes of many American veterans of the Vietnam War (including Jon McCain) highly treasonous. “Hanoi” Jane sympathized with the North Vietnamese, posing with their anti-aircraft guns, and “questioning” American POW’s (through her comrades, the North Vietnamese) about the “benevolent” treatment they were receiving from their captors. The soldiers tried to explain to Fonda that they were in fact being ill treated, and sometimes tortured, but she didn’t believe it. Some soldiers claim they withstood more torture and suffering because they would not speak to Jane and parrot the viewpoint that their captors were kind and peaceful. Many veterans tried to bring Jane Fonda up on charges of treason after the war, but, as some rich and famous people tend to do, she managed to escape any real punishment for her role in supporting the enemy during the Vietnamese conflict. She says now that she regrets her acts, but veterans of that conflict have yet to forgive “Hanoi Jane” for her easy embrace of the enemy.

7. Brutus

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Julius Caesar, self-appointed “dictator for life” of the Roman Empire, was a leader whose tyranny led to his assassination: he had many enemies in high places, including a group of senators who conspired to kill him, with the help of his own nephew, Marcus Junius Brutus. Brutus joined the Senate in Rome after an early and very lucrative career as a moneylender.

On the day of Caesar’s assassination, there were rumors that the plot had been discovered, and many of the conspirators were wary of carrying out the plan. Brutus’ own wife pleaded with him to stay far away from the Senate that day. Brutus was undaunted, and he went to lie in wait for his uncle, along with a group of senators who then attacked the dictator with their bare hands. The famous quote, “Et tu, Brutus?” was uttered by Caesar as he took in the depths of his betrayal by his own nephew. The assassins attacked Julius Caesar so savagely, that they themselves were injured in the melee.

Brutus committed suicide after losing the Second Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C.

6. Wang Jingwei

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Considered the greatest traitor in Chinese history, Wang Jingwei was born in 1883. When he turned 21, he went to school in Japan, where he encountered Sun-Yat Sen, a famous Chinese revolutionary. Under the influence of Sen, he began to participate in plots against the government, including an abortive assassination attempt on the Manchu Regent in Beijing.

Jang stayed in prison until the Wuchang uprising in 1911: after that time, Sun remained his mentor. Sun Yat-Sen’s Guangdong government rose to power in 1920: when Sun lay on his deathbed in 1925, Wang was his chosen successor. Wang could not hold onto power, however: Jiang Jieshi’s military faction usurped him the very same year.

When Nanjing fell to the Japanese in 1937, Wang began his traitorous dealings with the Japanese government, earning his place in history. He supported Japan’s plans for an armistice in a notorious telegram that led to his expulsion from the Chongqing government. When China was in crisis and needed him most, Jingwei took pains to ally with the Japanese and go along with its invaders. Wang died before he could witness the defeat of the Japanese by Allied forces in WWII.

5. The Rosenbergs

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Selling atomic secrets to the Russians during the Cold War is about as treasonous it as gets: the Rosenbergs were a married couple willing to do anything to further their Communist beliefs.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s were affiliated with the Communist Party quite openly until 1943, when they suddenly seemed to retreat from any political activity: this was the same year they joined forces with Soviet super spy, Feliksov.

From then on, Julius Rosenberg was heavily involved in espionage against the American government: he acted as a mule for covert information exchanges with the Russians, and sought out new recruits to betray and spy for the USSR. He was arrested as he shaved one morning in 1950. He and his wife, Ethel, were executed on June 19, 1953.

4. Benedict Arnold

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Benedict Arnold was an American general who served the cause of the American Revolution until he decided to shift his allegiance to the British. Born in Connecticut in January 1741, he came from a troubled background, where his family struggled to survive poverty and hardship. Always known as a troublemaking child, he grew to become a prominent figure in the military, where he trained soldiers and planned out attacks.

From an early start as a war hero and patriot, Arnold plotted to turn over the American fort at West Point, New York to British forces during the American Revolution. His plot was unsuccessful and he was driven to escape by sea, under cover of darkness, to Britain, where he was not welcomed with open arms: they, too, distrusted the man who would betray his own country so readily. He died in poverty in Canada in 1801.

3. Aldrich Ames

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Ames entered the Soviet Embassy in Washington in 1985 and offered to sell American secrets for one reason only: money. He was an alcoholic with a very expensive second wife, a woman name Rosario who burned through his paychecks from the CIA with alarming frequency.

In order to give the woman he loved the lifestyle she demanded, he was willing to do a lot of damage to the US government: by releasing the names of American spies and other counterintelligence information, he compromised over 100 United States military operations.

Thanks to Aldritch, who earned about 4.6 million dollars for his efforts, 10 Americans were executed because their covers were “blown”. In time, he revealed the names of every US agent in operation against the USSR. His lavish lifestyle raised red flags for the CIA, and he was arrested and convicted to life in prison: his wife, Rosario, was deported to South America.

2. Vidkun Quisling

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Considered a lunatic right-winger in his native Norway, Quisling went unnoticed until forming his National Unity Party in 1933. He adored Hitler and was a firm believer in the doctrine of Fascism. Quisling, a military general, met with Hitler and made sure he had all the information he needed about Norwegian military strategy, so that Hitler could secure the occupation of Norway.

When the Germans invaded, Quisling was appointed as Premier, as the deposed government officials scattered and ran, trying to stay alive. The citizens of Norway were disgusted by his appointment, and rebelled until he was forced to step down. Nonetheless, Hitler had him reinstated that November. A failure and a weak politician, Quisling often made a fool of himself, even in the eyes of his Nazi collaborators. After the German surrender in Norway, Quisling was tried and convicted for deaths of 1000 Jews, along other war crimes. He was executed in 1945.

1. Judas Iscariot

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According to the Bible, Satan “entered Judas” before he betrayed the son of Christ to Roman authorities. This infamous member of the Twelve Apostles betrayed his friend for money alone – thirty pieces of silver. Judas arranged a special signal to let the authorities know the identity of Jesus Christ: he would kiss Jesus to identify him. This “Judas kiss” led to the prosecution and death by crucifixion of the Son of God, and puts Judas Iscariot at number one as the most notorious traitor in human history:  Judas died shortly after his monumental act of greed.

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  1. You more than off on your facts here. Do a better job on research next time:

    The British gave Arnold a brigadier general's commission with an annual income of several hundred pounds, but only paid him £6,315 plus an annual pension of £360 because his plot failed.[4] In December 1780, under orders from Clinton, Arnold led a force of 1,600 troops into Virginia, where he captured Richmond by surprise and then went on a rampage through Virginia, destroying supply houses, foundries, and mills.

    He also earned him and his sons a land grant of 15,000 acres (6,100 ha) in Upper Canada,[100] near present-day Renfrew, Ontario. [101 (French Revolution from England)

    Arnold was buried at St. Mary's Church, Battersea in London, England. As a result of a clerical error in the parish records, his remains were removed to an unmarked mass grave during church renovations a century later.[104] His funeral procession boasted "seven mourning coaches and four state carriages";[83] the funeral was without military honors.[105]

      • Heather Matthews on

        in my blurb, i was referring to his childhood as being poor, not his adult life. The decline in his family's fortunes is well documented.

        • Heather Matthews on

          also…just because the British rewarded Arnold doesn't mean they liked or trusted him – it was a transaction. I have to disagree with your criticisms of my list.

        • True his child was poor, you are correct in that. When he died, while not rich he was clearly not die in poverty. In the end he betrayed the revilution not because he did not believe in it or because he believed in the British. He was a selfish man and in the end that was his down fall.

        • Heather Matthews on

          Yes, he was very selfish. Thanks for your comment – I appreciate your taking the time to read the list.

  2. A late entry with Bradley Manning. As a United States Army Intelligence officer he was entrusted with classified materials regarding troop displacement and names addresses etc of Iraqi translators and cooperators. He made a personal judgment that the world needed to know said classified information and gave over 15,000 classified documents to the website Wikileaks. Enemy combatants are known to track down cooperators and kill them and their families. He is currently charged with treason and being held in Kuwait. During wartime treason is punishable by death.

  3. Kevin Klawitter on

    This is a really good list, but I'd really put Jefferson Davis and the rest of the confederate states leaders on here, probably in the top 5. Their action directly led to the bloodiest war in US history.

    • Heather Matthews on

      it does depend on your perspective, doesn’t it? You basically have to pick a side when you’re listing traitors 🙂 thanks for the comment!

  4. azngirl967 on

    Brutus from Julius Caesar was not the nephew of Caesar. He was the brother-in-law.

  5. ralph hanes on

    there was no mention of captain alfred svenson. he defected to east germany in the early sixties. he was an s-2 officer with privvy to top secret movements in germany. he was later released by the russians and sent back to the u.s. he now lives happily amongst us somewhere. he should have been executed, but for some reason he is still with us.

    • Ralph Hanes.. please email me.. my law professor was in the army w/ Alfred Svenson,
      my prof was wondering what happened to him after his 7 yrs hard labor at leavenworth

  6. I disagree with Benedict Arnold and question Brutus+ Robert Hanssen,

    Benedict Arnold’s achievements were passed on as other persons and they got the credit, he also spent money on the continental army and wasn’t going to be reimbursed… he joined the British as a sign that as Americans do not appreciate him enough that he will go to the other side to show his worth.. and that he wouldn’t just stand in line taking these insults without consequence… showing a strong degree of the power of the individual over the conformity of a group

    Brutus may have been the nephew of Julius but for the principles of the Roman Republic and against tyranny of Caesar thought that assasinating Caesar with his co-conspirators was the only way to protect the republic from an approaching kingship (all but name)… this urges the question of which is the greater treachery against family or nation?

    Robert Hannsen betrayed “his” country but he was betrayed by his brother in law! Judas #1 for sure.

  7. too many of you are taking this way too serious.

    These lists are like those at Cracked. They are for fun and you don’t expect the people who make them to spend day of researching like they would if it was for a masters thesis or a book on the subject. Wikipedia is a primary source for cracked and top 10 and anyone can make changes to that site so it is rife with errors

    • I absolutely agree with you but I will say that the writers of cracked make fun of wikipedia all the time….I’m not sure that they use them as a source.

  8. I found this list an interesting read. I agree with many of the selections but I do think there is one glaring omission: the united states government’s treatment of native americans. They were betrayed over and over, made promises to that were renegged upon, and butchered unmercifully until their entire race is nearly extinct now.

  9. I believe Urban Meyer has earned his place on this list as well.

    Great work composing this by the way!

  10. I would as the Walker Family of spies. The information they revealed to the Soviets was considerable.

  11. Judas Iscariot probably wasn’t even a real person. Judas is a corruption of Judah or Yehuda in Hebrew and Iscariot or Eish Keriot means man of the towns. So it is probably a Christian attack on urban centers as being the source of corruption and evil. The existence of Judas is necessary to fill a plot hole in the story.

    But in general your list strikes me as arbitrary both in who is included and in the rank order of the ten. Why was Robert Hanson ranked no. 9 and Ames ranked no. 3? You mention the Rosenburgs but not other nuclear spies like Klaus Fuchs and Ted Hall. Most historians consider Fuchs to have been a more important traitor than the Rosenburgs.

  12. Gimme a freakin’ break. Jane Fonda doesn’t deserve to be on the same list with Judas and Aldrich Ames. Not when Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld aren’t. Nobody was murdered because she visited Vietnam. And who gives a fat flying flip what John McCain thinks?

  13. In what sense did Guy Fawkes seek to loosen Spanish influence? In fact, he was working to bring about an end to Protestant England, and to bring the country back into the orbit of the Catholic kingdom of Spain. He was a religious fundamentalist terrorist who had already tried to further Spain’s cause in the Netherlands, Thank goodness we got him!

  14. I would add the Greek who led the Persians thru the ‘secret’ passes thru the mountains at the battle of Thermopylae so they could then attack the Spartans from two directions.

  15. First, under the Ames item, “10 Americans” were not executed; these were Soviet citizens who were spying for America. Second, the “top traitor” to the United States of America has to be Robert E. Lee.

    • If Lee wore a Union Uniform and killed Union Soldiers, yes. However, He resigned his commission and joined his homeland. In fact, Jefferson Davis’s “treason” trail was canceled because the US Justice Department could not find anywhere were it wasn’t LEGAL FOR A STATE TO LEAVE THE US. Your wrong, if you were right every Southern Official of that era would have been charged with treason. Nobody was charged, nobody was convicted. End of story.

  16. family loses on

    RT, you’re the product of an American public school education, aren’t you?
    Pullerdog, you are right, Walkers should be added.
    Good list, Ms Matthews

  17. Guy Fawkes, far from being a traitor was only ever person to enter the house of commons with honest intentions.

  18. The worst traitor of all time has to be Edward VIII of England (aka the Duke of Windsor). He told Hitler that if Germany kept bombing England, England would probably surrender. He was a Nazi sympathizer who worked against England’s interests every step of the way. Some said he helped Hitler conquer France. His story has been kept hidden by the rest of England’s Royal Family for more than 70 years, but is coming out in the open more every year now.

  19. Heather,

    I question the inclusion of two of the people on the list. Jane Fonda, though despicable and naive, did not reveal any information to the North Vietnamese–she was merely a propaganda trophy.

    Judas Iscariot (a pseudonym: ish keriot means man of the towns in Hebrew) was not a traitor in any real sense of the word. Jesus was tried by the legal ruler of Galilee, Herod Antipas, and by the Romans. If he really was the son of God than his going through with the torture and execution by the Romans was voluntary. Since Jesus was one man and the only one who suffered as a result of the “treachery,” his betrayal should hardly be considered the most important in all of human history. On the other hand, from the viewpoint of Christianity he was merely an agent of God.

  20. How is Lu Bu not on this list, yet Jane Fonda is? Jane Fonda simply spoke out against an unpopular war. How can that compare to Lu Bu’s betrayals of, first, his foster father, Ding Yuan, then after that, Dong Zhou? Both of whom he murdered for a horse (in the first case) and a woman (in the second case). Later on, when given sanctuary by Liu Bei, he took over Xia Pi (the city which Liu Bei governed) for Yuan Shu while Liu Bei was defending the territory from Yuan Shu’s army. He (Lu Bu) later on betrayed a proposed alliance with Yuan Shu by refusing to marry his daughter off to the latter’s son. All these betrayals eventually led to Lu Bu’s sad end at the hands of Cao Cao in 198 CE, who assisted Liu Bei in retaking Xia Pi at the time.
    If this is just a case of needing a woman on the list though, why not Pocahontas? Her assistance of the British when they arrived led to the deaths of not only much of her own tribe but that of several others as well. Or do only people who disagreed or opposed POVs you like make the list?

    • To all the Jane Fonda supporters who gripe about her being on this list. She gave aid and comfort to the enemy at a time of war. She is a traitor. That said, I agree with most of you that there are WAY bigger traitors in history than Jane. I don’t think she would make my top 10. Top 100, yes.

  21. CKAinRedStateUSA on

    How can John Kerry not be on your list?

    He met with North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong officials in Paris, while still an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

    Expand the number of listings and include this despicable traitor.

  22. FedUpWithTheFed on

    Hillary and Bill Clinton, Obama and all the Bushes need to be on this list. Maybe not top 10 of all time, but definitely the top 10 biggest traitors of recent American History.

  23. I was wondering why Kim Philby didn’t make this list? Maybe it should be top 20?