MOSCOW, May 28 (RIA Novosti) – National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is currently living in Russia under temporary asylum status, has refuted claims by the US government that he was a low-level contractor, according to an excerpt from an NBC News interview published Wednesday.
"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," he said in his first interview with American media.
Snowden said he had worked as a “technical expert” at all levels of the US government, lectured at the Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy and operated undercover for the CIA and NSA.
“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,” the whistleblower said.
NBC’s Brian Williams and Snowden met at a hotel in Moscow on May 21. The TV channel is airing the full interview at 10 p.m. local time on Wednesday (2 a.m. GMT Thursday).
SNOWDEN SAYS US VIOLATING RIGHTS OF ALL GERMANS
Edward Snowden has additional information regarding US spying on German citizens, but it’s unlikely that Berlin would want to hear it as it has employed the same surveillance methods as Washington, Stern magazine reported.
“I'd be surprised if German lawmakers learnt nothing new if I laid out all the information,” Snowden told the media outlet.
Snowden underlined that the new revelations show that the constitutional rights of every German citizen had been violated.
Earlier this month, German lawmakers decided to have talks with the fugitive whistleblower but haven’t agreed yet on details of the meeting. The opposition believes Snowden should be invited to Berlin to let him express himself freely. Meanwhile, the conservatives from Merkel’s CDU party insist that grilling Snowden in Berlin would even further deteriorate German-American relations.
The fact that Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, uses the same spying techniques as the NSA might be one of reasons why some in Berlin were reluctant to hear him, Snowden said.
SNOWDEN CONSIDERS RETURNING TO US
Snowden is considering returning to the US under certain conditions, Der Spiegel reported citing Wolfgang Kaleck, the leaker’s German lawyer.
“Negotiations are currently under way. Everyone familiar with [Snowden’s] case understands that a friendly settlement with US authorities would be the most reasonable one,” he told the newspaper.
Efforts were being made to find a solution that would be acceptable to Snowden, the lawyer said, adding the whistleblower himself is not participating in the negotiations.
Snowden is facing a long-term imprisonment as he has been accused by the US authorities of espionage after leaking documents about a secret NSA surveillance program, Der Speigel reported.
Earlier this week, Glasgow University Rector Mick Napier told RIA Novosti that the former NSA contractor could be granted permanent sanctuary in Scotland. Napier has put forward a petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for Snowden to be offered political asylum. Some parliamentarians supported the petition, but its consideration has been postponed to after the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence in September.
In February, Snowden was elected by students of Glasgow University, one of the UK’s oldest academic institutions, to the position of rector. Previous holders of the post included Winnie Mandela, Mordechai Vanunu and former British Prime Minister Henry Asquith.
Snowden leaked information to the press about the extensive electronic surveillance programs conducted by the US government around the globe, including eavesdropping on American citizens and foreign leaders. The revelations have sparked domestic controversy and strained relations between the US and its allies.
The leaker may have taken up to 1.7 million documents from the NSA, the channel said, citing US officials.
US authorities have rejected claims that Snowden is a whistleblower, insisting that he committed crimes and should stand trial at home. They have charged Snowden with espionage and revoked his passport.
The 30-year-old has been residing in Russia for a little under a year, after the local authorities granted him temporary asylum, which he sought in 21 countries. He is now awaiting renewal of his asylum status in June.