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Snowden says he was a spy, not just an analyst

By David S. Joachim & Scott Shane

New York times

LAST UPDATED: 05:21 p.m. HST, May 28, 2014

WASHINGTON » Edward J. Snowden says he was not merely a "low-level analyst" writing computer code for U.S. spies, as President Barack Obama and other administration officials have portrayed him. Instead, he says, he was a trained spy who worked under assumed names overseas for the CIA and the National Security Agency.

Snowden's claims were made in a television interview to be broadcast Wednesday evening by NBC News. They added a new twist to the yearlong public relations battle between the administration and Snowden, who is living under asylum in Moscow to escape prosecution for leaking thousands of classified files detailing extensive U.S. surveillance programs at home and abroad.

"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 told Brian Williams of NBC News, in an excerpt released in advance of the full interview.

The NSA, which has described Snowden as an information technology contractor, has not commented on the new claims.

Snowden also addressed how he wound up in Russia after initially fleeing to Hong Kong.

"The reality is I never intended to end up in Russia," he said in a second excerpt broadcast on NBC's "Today Show." "I had a flight booked to Cuba onwards to Latin America, and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in Moscow airport. So when people ask why are you in Russia, I say, 'Please ask the State Department.'"

That comment drew a sharp reaction from Secretary of State John Kerry, in an interview on the same program.

"For a supposedly smart guy, that's a pretty dumb answer, frankly," Kerry said. He added: "He can come home, but he's a fugitive from justice, which is why he's not being permitted to fly around the world. It's that simple."

Snowden suggested that the government was deliberately playing down his role, although in the excerpt he did not say why.

"What they're trying to do," he said, "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, which is that I've worked for the Central Intelligence Agency undercover overseas, I've worked for the National Security Agency undercover overseas and I've worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency as a lecturer 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."

Snowden said, however, that he had not been the kind of spy depicted by Hollywood who embeds himself in glamorous overseas locations to extract information through interpersonal connections.

"I am a technical specialist," he said. "I am a technical expert. 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. Now, the government might deny these things, they might frame it in certain ways and say, 'Oh well, you know, he's — he's a low level analyst.'?"

The interview, which Williams said required the television network to employ its own brand of misdirection and intrigue, was conducted in Moscow last week and will be aired Wednesday starting at 10 p.m. ET.

According to government officials and former colleagues, Snowden first went to work as a security guard at an NSA-financed language research center at the University of Maryland. His computer skills evidently attracted attention, and he subsequently worked overseas for the CIA in Geneva and for NSA contractors in Japan, Maryland and Hawaii before flying to Hong Kong last year and handing secret NSA documents to several journalists.

According to his resume and interviews, he worked in cyber-counterintelligence, searching classified government computer systems looking for intrusions from hackers and foreign spies. In his last job in Hawaii, he was described as an "infrastructure analyst," which former NSA officials say probably meant that he was looking for vulnerabilities in foreign telephone and Internet systems that would allow the agency to tap in.

CIA and NSA employees deployed overseas almost always work undercover, meaning that they are given an official job title, usually as a diplomat, along with business cards and often a false name, to conceal their real role as an intelligence officer. Such employees undergo basic training in how to operate undercover, and Snowden would have had such training before being posted outside the United States.

Kerry, in a CBS News interview Wednesday, suggested that Snowden's refusal to return to the United States amounted to cowardice.

"The bottom line is this is a man who has betrayed his country, who is sitting in Russia, an authoritarian country, where he has taken refuge," he said. "He should man up and come back to the United States if he has a complaint about what's the matter with American surveillance, come back here and stand in our system of justice and make his case. But instead he is just sitting there taking potshots at his country, violating his oath that he took when he took on the job he took."

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loquaciousone wrote:
For a smart guy he sure is naive or dumb.
on May 28,2014 | 09:00AM
residenttaxpayer wrote:
A Walter Mitty type who thinks he's James Bond.......
on May 28,2014 | 09:21AM
Surfer_Dude wrote:
Wonder if his house in Portlock has been repossessed?
on May 28,2014 | 09:45AM
localcitizen wrote:
the sooner they lock this weasel up- the better its all about him- he's more interested in making himself sound important - than his supposed principles he pursued in stealing documents what a low life- I hope Russia keeps him send him to Ukraine...
on May 28,2014 | 10:06AM
pcman wrote:
Sonwden said he is a spy. I have been saying this all along. A spy knows what to collect based on what the enemy wants. Working for BAH just for 3 months before running off to Hong Kong with the goods, Snowden did not do what he did by chance. He was also well coached to do what he did in escaping to Hong Kong then going to the highest bidder. Snowden needs to be returned to the US to be hanged.
on May 28,2014 | 10:19AM
cojef wrote:
In some circles he is a folk hero. In others, a narcissistic who became at first disappointed and then disenchanted with his Government. Take your pick.
on May 28,2014 | 10:22AM
sailfish1 wrote:
Anybody who claims he's a "spy" is just a wannabe insecure baboon.
on May 28,2014 | 10:38AM
false wrote:
Snowden is a patriot. He is no different from Daniel Ellsberg who came out with the Pentagon Papers during Vietnam. Only time will tell how much more we will learn about the overreach by the NSA and the Feds. Imagine spying on everyone as all are potential enemies of the state. Sounds like East Germany and the Stazi who had people informing on each other. The technology that exists today, makes the power of the state very worrisome.
on May 28,2014 | 10:42AM
kuewa wrote:
Whether he is a patriot or not is a matter of opinion. Yes, like Ellsberg, he needs to be brought to trial on appropriate charges which might include theft, sedition, among other crimes. The case against Ellsberg was dismissed largely because of improper evidence gathering on the part of the prosecution, not because of his innocence per se. The actions of Ellsberg, Manning and Snowden may or may not have a positive effect on governmental activities. However, whether the means may or may not have justified the ends and whether laws were violated should be tested in a court of law, not in a public forum.
on May 28,2014 | 02:41PM
scooters wrote:
You couldn't find your "backside" with both hands. You belong in the same category as Snowden if you really believe he's a Patriot.
on May 28,2014 | 04:18PM
FLIPTOP2 wrote:
Amen Scooters!!!
on May 28,2014 | 08:52PM
krusha wrote:
Funny that Snowden is so against the way the United States conducts it's intelligence gathering, yet he went to Russia for asylum, which is probably the biggest violator of personal rights and free speech next to China. Kinda like the saying, the enemy of your enemy is your friend... ?
on May 28,2014 | 10:52AM
false wrote:
If you read and believe this article, Snowden's ultimate destination was Latin America. He's stuck in Russia because we pulled his passport while he was passing through.
on May 28,2014 | 11:10AM
Pocho wrote:
It reads like that
on May 28,2014 | 11:57AM
saveparadise wrote:
And his passport was pulled because?? Raise your hand to answer after you read again that Snowden is a fugitive from justice. He can come home anytime he wants to should he decide to man up.
on May 28,2014 | 01:20PM
HD36 wrote:
Yea, who would you rather believe? The government never lies!
on May 28,2014 | 05:12PM
2NDC wrote:
Bruddah left Russia a while back. Anyone check Belize lately?
on May 28,2014 | 11:30AM
saveparadise wrote:
Patriot=a person who loves and strongly supports or fights for his or her country ... false! Please use another adjective like f-king traitor.
on May 28,2014 | 01:13PM
scooters wrote:
He's full of $hit.
on May 28,2014 | 04:16PM
HD36 wrote:
Kerry was the one begging congress to go to war in Syria.
on May 28,2014 | 05:14PM
bsdetection wrote:
Interesting how conservatives and Fox News continually flog the idea that the US Government has over-reached, that Obama has shredded the Constitution, that the government is fascist or totalitarian or a bunch of nazis, that our liberties are eroding and our rights to privacy and freedom are being taken away. Yet when someone reveals that many of these allegations are not only true but but true beyond anything they could have imagined, the person who reveals those truths is a traitor. I love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning!
on May 28,2014 | 05:41PM
HD36 wrote:
Yes that's true and their neocon sponsorship will not let down the military industrial complex.
on May 28,2014 | 07:24PM
Maipono wrote:
John Kerry is a Republican and watches Fox News? Who knew?
on May 28,2014 | 08:59PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Without Snowden we would not have known about the wide spread and extensive unconstitutional abuses of our privacy by government. He was a whistle blower. His accusations have been proven true.
on May 28,2014 | 06:50PM
FLIPTOP2 wrote:
Ya, so what about all the other stuff he disclosed that helps terrorists - stuff that has absolutely nothing to do about our privacy. Bottom LIne is he's a traitor and has given away much of the "farm" to our adversaries. So think about that the next time you're flying out of country. Thank Snowden all the way....
on May 28,2014 | 08:55PM
HD36 wrote:
Truth is treason in the empire of lies.
on May 28,2014 | 09:05PM
aomohoa wrote:
Thank you. First intelligent comment.
on May 28,2014 | 09:27PM
aomohoa wrote:
Open your eyes people and stop being so Naive. Our government is spending way too much money on the wrong things. Do your own investigation instead of believing all the garbage you are fed. Our leaders are not in the positions they are in because they care about you or me.
on May 28,2014 | 09:22PM
Kuokoa wrote:
If Snowden was a spy, the CIA should send a couple agents after him and take him out! Whatever the NSA is doing, I support 1000% if it saves my life from terrorists! What are these people so afraid of if they are not hiding anything?
on May 28,2014 | 11:21PM
Giligan wrote:
Return and execute, or terminate with extreme prejudice.
on May 29,2014 | 06:10AM
Maweke wrote:
Confirming his intentions to support the US Constitution against all terrorist - foreign and domestic. The military industrial complex(MIC) is so huge that no POTUS/VPOTUS/Congress is able to do checks and balances on these entities. Snowden gave us an inside look on how the MIC is able to do this.
on May 29,2014 | 10:00AM
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