Edward Snowden, in an interview Tuesday, said that he was “trained as a spy” and provided the government with all levels of technical expertise and denied critics' claims that he was a mere hacker.
In an interview with NBC, the former CIA employee who made public the National Security Agency’s global surveillance practices, said that he worked as a teacher at a counterintelligence academy for the Defense Intelligence Agency and also performed undercover work for the agency and NSA. While the CIA has not commented on Snowden’s role in the organization, other government officials have repeatedly claimed that he was only a “systems administrator.”
“I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word, in that I lived and worked undercover overseas — pretending to work in a job that I’m not — and even being assigned a name that was not mine,” Snowden said in the interview with NBC News, adding: “When they say I’m a low-level systems administrator, that I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’d say it’s somewhat misleading.”
Snowden spoke to the NBC from Moscow, where he has been granted temporary asylum, and the interview followed demands from Snowden's supporters last week that he be offered political asylum in Scotland.
Snowden reportedly collected 1.7 million secret documents in connection with U.S. intelligence while working with the NSA, including those describing the country's relations with its foreign allies. Snowden's revelations of NSA’s metadata collection program, which was initiated after the 9/11 attacks, showed that the NSA tapped personal phone calls and Internet communications of foreign leaders as well as U.S. citizens, and revealed the NSA’s ability to tap undersea fiber-optic cables to siphon data. The U.S. has revoked his passport and charged him with espionage for his role in revealing national security secrets.
In January, James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said: “Snowden claims that he’s won and that his mission is accomplished. If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed, to prevent even more damage to U.S. security.”
Obama’s administration ended the collection of domestic metadata last week, following the appointment of a review board into the NSA's practices amid severe rebukes both from domestic critics and leaders of the country's foreign allies.
“I don’t work with people. I don’t recruit agents. What I do is I put systems to work for the United States. And I’ve done that at all levels from — from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top,” Snowden said, in the NBC interview, adding that he “developed sources and methods for keeping our information and people secure in the most hostile and dangerous environments around the world.”