Edward Snowden says he's more than just a hacker or systems administrator, as the Obama administration and media have portrayed him.
He worked undercover for the CIA and the National Security Agency.
"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," the master secrets spillertells NBC News in his first interview with a U.S. TV network.
Portions of the interview, conducted by Brian Williams in Moscow last week, appeared Tuesday night. An extended version will air Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.
Snowden, who was granted temporary asylum in Russia after revealing details of U.S. spying activities to journalists, portrayed himself as "a technical specialist ... 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," Snowden said.
In addition to his overseas spycraft, he said he had also lectured at a counterintelligence academy for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
After leaving the government, Snowden continued his intelligence work for the NSA as a private contractor, including stints in Japan and Hawaii. While in the Aloha State he downloaded an estimated 1.7 million files before fleeing first to Hong Kong and then to Moscow.
He has been charged with espionage and had his U.S. passport revoked.
Last week, the House of Representatives voted to end the NSA's bulk collection of so-called metadata from cellphones, a practice Snowden revealed.