Snowden: ‘I was trained as a spy’

NSA leaker Edward Snowden says he knows how U.S. spies operate because he was trained as one of them.

In an interview with NBC News, Snowden dismissed allegations that he was just a low-level analyst with the government before revealing highly classified details of U.S. spying activities last year.

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“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 in a portion of the interview that aired on Tuesday. 

He added that he is a “technical specialist” and a “technical expert” who works with machines and systems, not people. But it would be unfair to minimize his experience just because he did not recruit other agents, he said.

When government officials point to that as an indication he does not understand the complexity of U.S. intelligence operations, they are “trying to use one position that I've had in a career here or there to distract from the totality of my experience,” he said, which includes stints undercover with the CIA and the National Security Agency as well as a lecturer with the Defense Intelligence Agency, working to keep information secure.

“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," he said.

Snowden's critics fear that his revelations, which captured headlines around the globe, put Americans in danger by giving terrorists an insight into the country's programs.

He has spent the last few months under asylum in Russia, where he fled to avoid espionage charges in the U.S.

His interview with NBC, which is his first with an American TV news outlet, comes a week ahead of the one-year anniversary of his first revelations about the NSA.

The full interview airs Wednesday at 10 p.m.