In his first interview with a U.S. television news station since leaking information about NSA surveillance programs, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden sits down with NBC News’ Brian Williams for a one hour primetime special. The interview, which was conducted last week, will air this Wednesday and NBC News has released some early clips in advance.
From NBC News:
Edward Snowden, in an exclusive interview with “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, is fighting back against critics who dismissed him as a low-level hacker — saying he was “trained as a spy” and offered technical expertise to high levels of government.
Snowden defended his expertise in portions of the interview that aired at 6:30 p.m. ET on Nightly News. The extended, wide-ranging interview with Williams, his first with a U.S. television network, airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
“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 the interview.
Snowden described himself as a technical expert who has worked for the United States at high levels, including as a lecturer in a counterintelligence academy for the Defense Intelligence Agency and undercover work for the CIA and National Security Agency.
“But I am a technical specialist. 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.”
Williams’ interview with Snowden comes after months of negotiation between NBC News and intermediaries for the former NSA contractor, according to the New York Times. The interview was conducted in Russia, where Snowden has been living since being granted asylum there last year. That location alone apparently presented its own challenges for the interview.
From the NY Times:
As Mr. Williams described it, the back story of the interview contained its own quotient of cloak-and-dagger activity, including unannounced plane travel, lost luggage, hotel bookings under assumed names and two days sequestered in a room with a view of Red Square.
“We were worried about a number of things,” Mr. Williams said.
“There were competitive concerns,” he said. (Because Mr. Snowden represented the kind of huge interview “get” that has become rare in network television.) “And we didn’t know how much the Russians knew about the reasons for our travel.”
The presumption was: a lot. “A former administration official told us: ‘Don’t kid yourself, they know who you are, who you are coming to see, and everything you will do while you are there.’”
The extended interview airs Wednesday evening at 10 p.m. ET on NBC, and will also feature a segment with Glenn Greenwald, one of the journalists who first broke the NSA stories.
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