If Edward Snowden were a Russian citizen who was born in Russia, became a professional spy and later infiltrated the US, could I still say that he betrayed the USA?
Assuming we're talking about definitions of words and not anything about this particular case (as to the best of my knowledge there is no indication that Mr Snowden is a Russian, etc) ...
The short answer is "maybe".
If someone was sent by country A to be a spy in country B, you wouldn't normally say that he "betrayed country B". "Betray" implies violating a trust or expectation of loyalty, and someone from A is not expected to be loyal to B.
But if he came from A, and then became a citizen of B, and gave every indication that his loyalty was now to his adopted nation, then you could say that he betrayed B.
Or if someone came from A and got a job in the government of B, and then used that position to steal secrets to send back to A, you could say that he betrayed B. He was given a position of trust, and then he broke that trust.
- Expose one's country, a group, or a person to danger by treacherously giving information to an enemy
- Treacherously reveal secrets or information
- Be disloyal to
- Unintentionally reveal; be evidence of
In the first case, I could use the following sentence.
She is a double agent who betrayed some 400 British and French agents to the Germans.
In the second case, I could use a sentence similar to the following.
Many of those employed by diplomats betrayed secrets and sold classified documents
In the third case, I could use this other sentence.
Her friends were shocked when she betrayed them.
The difference between the second case and the other case is that in the second case the direct object for betray is what is revealed; in the first case the direct object is the country, group or person that was exposed to danger; in the third case, the direct object is the people to which the subject was disloyal.
Yes, but only because he obtained a position of trust within the United States working for the NSA. You can only betray someone or something (in this sense) if they extended some trust to you. If a Russian agent did the same thing Snowden did without working for the NSA, it would be incorrect to say he had "betrayed the United States" because no trust had been extended.