The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Edward Snowden says he was ‘trained as a spy’

Placeholder while article actions load

Fugitive former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden said in his first U.S. network television interview that he was "trained as a spy" and rejected the notion that he was a low-level operative.

"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 in an interview with NBC News, a portion of which aired Tuesday. The full interview will air Wednesday evening.

Snowden, who leaked information about the U.S. government's sweeping surveillance efforts and is living in exile in Russia, referred to himself as a "technical expert" and said that efforts to downplay his role in government operations sell him short.

"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.

He added, "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."

In an additional interview excerpt released Wednesday morning, Snowden blamed the U.S. State Department for stranding him in Russia.

"The reality is I never intended to end up in Russia," Snowden said. "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 the Moscow Airport. So when people ask why are you in Russia, I say, 'Please ask the State Department.'"

Secretary of State John Kerry doesn't agree.

"For a supposedly smart guy, that’s a pretty dumb answer, frankly," Kerry said in an interview on NBC's "Today." "Look, I’m not going to get into the who he was, what he was. Let me just say this: If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we'll have him on a flight today. We’d be delighted for him to come back. And he should come back and -- and that’s what a patriot would do."

Updated on 5/28 at 11:00 a.m.