Exiled former security contractor Edward Snowden revealed in a recent interview that his true work with the US government has been mischaracterized by officials.
Snowden — who, depending on who you ask, has been viewed as a patriot and hero or a traitor and double agent — sat down with NBC News‘ Brian Williams for an interview when the bombshell admission was made.
The actual nature of Edward Snowden’s work during his tenure in security and intelligence is unclear. But in his discussion with Williams, footage of which will air this evening, Snowden addresses President Barack Obama’s characterization of him as a “29-year-old hacker” during the apex of the NSA leaking scandal.
As Snowden’s ultimate fate remains in the air, he sat down to speak with Williams in Moscow. The former Booz Allen contractor suggested that the United States had been “somewhat misleading” by describing Snowden as a “low-level systems administrator.”
“I am a technical specialist. 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.'”
Snowden’s use of present tense terminology led some to question what he meant by the statement. Of the obfuscation he alleges, Snowden says the government is deliberately concealing the extent of his involvement with intelligence programs, detailing more of what he says is far deeper work with these departments:
“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… 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 also says that his intent was never to land in Moscow, but that the State Department disrupted his plan to flee to Cuba.
Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the Snowden interview, describing the NSA leaker as a coward and opining that he should return to the United States to face the government whose covert actions he exposed.
“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 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.”
In response to Snowden’s statement that those who wish to know why he wound up in Moscow should “ask the State Department,” Kerry huffs:
“For a supposedly smart guy, that’s a pretty dumb answer, frankly. 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.”
Commenting on the Edward Snowden sit-down, Williams said that the accused spy was not heavily renumerated for the chat — adding that the anchor thinks “his total compensation was half a chicken sandwich from the room service cart.”