TIME National Security

Edward Snowden: ‘I Was Trained as a Spy’

Edward Snowden speaks with Brian Williams in an NBC News exclusive interview
Edward Snowden speaks with Brian Williams in an NBC News exclusive interview NBC News

The key player in the NSA scandal says the government is "misleading" the public about his work experience

Updated May 28 at 8:22 a.m. ET

Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor behind one of the biggest leaks of classified intelligence in American history, described his previous job as Bond-like in a new interview.

“It’s no secret that the U.S. tends to get more and better intelligence out of computers nowadays than they do out of people,” Snowden said in an excerpt from a new interview with NBC News’ Brian Williams that will air on Wednesday. “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.”

The 30-year-old is currently living in Russia and wanted on espionage charges in the U.S. after he helped expose some of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

Snowden went on to say the U.S. government has tried to discredit him by downplaying the number of positions he held while working for the CIA and the NSA.

“What they’re trying to do is they’re trying to use one position that I’ve had in a career here or there to distract from the totality of my experience,” said Snowden, who added that he worked “at all levels from — from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top.”

“So 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.”

In a different interview excerpt unveiled Wednesday, Snowden said he did not intend to stay in Russia, but had his passport revoked by the U.S. on his way to Cuba. During a Wednesday appearance on NBC’s TODAY show, Secretary of State John Kerry said Snowden’s explanation for his exile in Russia was “a pretty dumb answer” for “a supposedly smart guy.”

“If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we’ll have him on a flight today,” Kerry said. “We’d be delighted for him to come back. And he should come back and — and that’s what a patriot would do. A patriot would not run away and look for refuge in Russia or Cuba or some other country. A patriot would stand up in the United States and make his case to the American people. But he’s refused to do that to this date at least. The fact is that he can come home, but he’s a fugitive from justice which is why he is not being permitted to fly around the world. It’s that simple.”

[NBC News]

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