In his first interview in U.S. media, Snowden hit back at claims that he was merely a low-level contractor, saying he worked “at all levels from … the bottom on the ground, all the way to the top.”
Snowden, who has been charged in the United States with espionage, was granted asylum by Russia in August 2013 after shaking the American intelligence establishment to its core with a series of leaks on mass surveillance in the United States and around the world.
In the interview, taped last week and to air in full on Wednesday, Snowden defended himself against claims minimizing his intelligence experience before he stole and leaked a trove of classified documents revealing the NSA’s program of phone and Internet surveillance.
|Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, speaks on screen during a virtual conversation at a featured session at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, in March. (Bloomberg)|
“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,” he said.
He said he had worked covertly as “a technical expert” for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, as well as a trainer for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“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,” he said.
“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.”