US intelligence whistle-blower Edward Snowden says in a US television interview that he was “trained as a spy” and worked undercover in other countries for various government agencies.
Mr Snowden, on the run from US authorities for leaking details of National Security Agency “spying” programmes, in an advance excerpt of his interview with America’s NBC, rejected claims by critics that he was a “low level analyst” at the NSA.
“Well, it’s no secret that the US tends to get more and better intelligence out of computers nowadays than they do out of people,” Mr Snowden told NBC news anchor Brian Williams.
“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.”
Describing himself as a “technical expert,” Snowden said: “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.”
Mr Snowden, speaking from Moscow, said he had worked overseas for both the CIA and NSA and had lectured at the Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy “where I developed sources and methods for keeping our information and people secure in the most hostile and dangerous environments around the world.”
“So when they (critics) 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,” Mr Snowden added.
Mr Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong and then Moscow last year, is believed to have taken 1.7m documents. The leaked documents revealed massive programs run by the NSA that gathered information on emails, phone calls and Internet use by hundreds of millions of Americans.
He was charged last year in the United States with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorised person.
Last year Edward Snowden gave Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message, warning that George Orwell’s fictional imagining of data collection by an overbearing state are “nothing compared to what we have available today”.
NBC is airing the full interview with Snowden on Wednesday night.