Last summer, President Obama dismissed Edward Snowden as a “29-year-old hacker,” but the NSA leaker would like Americans to know that he’s more James Bond-like than U.S. officials have led us to believe. “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 a preview of his interview with Brian Williams that aired Tuesday night. “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.”
Snowden said he’s a “technical expert” who’s worked at all levels of the intelligence community, “from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top.” While he was fired from NSA contractor Booz Allen for absconding with millions of classified documents during his brief stint at the company, Snowden described his work duties in the present tense. “I don’t work with people. I don’t recruit agents. What I do is I put systems to work for the United States,” he said.
Snowden added that government officials are being “somewhat misleading” when they describe him as a “low-level systems administrator.” “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,” he said.
Snowden’s hour-long chat with Williams, which airs Wednesday night, is his first interview on American television. Williams told the New York Times on Tuesday that his trip to Moscow to meet with the NSA leaker involved some covert maneuvers, though it appears the drama mainly involved the anchor losing his luggage and checking into the hotel under a fake name. Apparently, there was no suitcase full of money either. “No money changed hands,” said Williams. “I think his total compensation was half a chicken sandwich from the room service cart.”