Former Defense Department contractor Edward Snowden accused the U.S. government of trying to minimize his abilities in an interview with NBC News scheduled to air Wednesday night.
“It’s no secret that the U.S. tends to get more and better intelligence out of computers nowadays than people,” Snowden told 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.”
The interview was conducted last week in Moscow, where Snowden has lived for almost a year after being granted asylum in Russia. Under the Espionage Act of 1917, Snowden was charged with revealing government information to someone without a security clearance, stealing government property, and leaking information regarding “communications intelligence.”
Snowden also rejected descriptions of him by President Barack Obama’s administration as a “hacker” and a “low-level systems analyst” following his leaking thousands of pages of classified material detailing the National Security Agency’s (NSA) data-gathering operations.
Instead, Snowden told Williams, the government was trying to use one specific job position to “distract from the totality of [his] experience,” which he said included undercover work overseas for the NSA and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
“I don’t work with people. I don’t recruit agents,” Snowden said. “What I do is I put systems to work for the United States. And I’ve done that at all levels, from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top. Now, the government might deny these things, they might frame it in certain ways and say, ‘Oh, he’s a low-level analyst.’”
Snowden said he also lectured at a counter-intelligence “academy” while working for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). NBC reported that the DIA confirmed that Snowden spoke at three of the agency’s conferences while working as a contractor, and that he also worked at a CIA station overseas in “IT and communications.”
While working for the DIA, Snowden explained to Williams, he “developed sources and methods for keeping our information and people secure in the most hostile and dangerous environments around the world.”
Watch a portion of the interview, as aired by NBC on Tuesday, below.