A banner supporting Snowden. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)

The question was simple: Is Edward Snowden, who supplied journalists with top-secret documents from the National Security Agency that revealed the reach of government surveillance, a traitor or a hero?

Democratic presidential candidates were divided on the answer.

Former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee said that he would bring Snowden, who is living in Moscow, back to the United States with no consequences.

"I would bring him home," Chafee said. "The American government was acting illegally. That's what the federal courts have said; what Snowden did showed that the American government was acting illegally for the Fourth Amendment. So I would bring him home."

[Read: Edward Snowden, after months of NSA revelations, says his mission’s accomplished]

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said that Snowden could have been a federal whistleblower, which would have shielded him from prosecution, but instead broke the law.

"He could have been a whistleblower. He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistleblower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised. And I think there would have been a positive response to that," she said.

[Read: NSA revelations in documents]

When asked if Snowden should serve time in prison, Clinton said: "He stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands. So I don't think he should be brought home without facing the music."

Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley took a similar tack, asserting that he broke the law and risked the lives of Americans.

"Whistleblowers do not run to Russia and try to get protection from Putin," O'Malley said.

[Read: A timeline of NSA revelations]

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said that Snowden broke the law and "there should be a penalty for that," but took a much more generous view of what Snowden did and said the benefits of his actions should be taken into account before any sanctions are handed down.

"I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree in which our civil liberties and our constitutional rights are being undermined," Sanders said.

Former Virginia senator Jim Webb didn't quite answer the question, saying he would leave Snowden's fate to the legal system, but that the government is too intrusive in its collection of bulk data.