In his exclusive interview with Brian Williams, Edward Snowden pushed back against critics who called him nothing more than a "low-level hacker." Instead, Snowden said he was "trained as a spy" and given high levels of technical training by the United States government.
“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,” said Snowden.
Snowden also argued that his job was much technically complicated that the government would like you to believe. “I am a technical expert,” he said. “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.”
Last June, Obama called Snowden a "29-year-old hacker," but it seems his training and job description was much closer to a security agency spy than a traditional "system administrator," as the U.S. claimed. Snowden believes that government officials who refer to him as a hacker and administrator are "misleading," aiming to play down the access and training he actually had in his position.
Considering the amount of records Snowden had access to (he allegedly downloaded 1.7 million documents about U.S intelligence), it seems clear he was more than just an office tech guy. However, the government admitting they helped train someone at such a high-level who turned against them is a difficult public statement to make. While the truth of Snowden's training is likely somewhere in the middle of full blown spy and computer expert, the US isn't welcoming him home anytime soon. The interview was conducted in Moscow, where he is living under temporary asylum.
NBC News aired excerpts of Williams' interview on Tuesday, but the full interview will air tonight in a primetime special, starting at 10:00 p.m. ET.