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By Richard A. Serrano, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Edward J. Snowden, charged with leaking thousands of U.S. classified secrets, maintains he was “trained as a spy” and that his government handlers repeatedly gave him code names and undercover assignments abroad that made him far more than just a low-level computer analyst.

In an interview with NBC News, Snowden further claimed that it was the U.S. that forced him to seek asylum in Russia after revoking his passport once he landed at a Moscow airport.

“In reality I never intended to end up in Russia,” he said after a year in that country. “So when people ask why are you in Russia, I say, ‘Please ask the State Department.’”

Snowden also maintained that he has worked under aliases overseas for both the CIA and the National Security Agency, as well as Department of Defense intelligence operations.

“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.

Secretary of State John Kerry scoffed at Snowden’s assertions, saying on NBC’s “Today” show that he “should man up and come back to the United States” to face criminal prosecution. If Snowden agreed, Kerry said, “we’ll have him on a flight today.”

AFP Photo

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

The late Sen. John McCain

I don't know Kyrsten Sinema, but I did know John McCain. Not at all intimately, to be sure, but just enough to say -- despite her pretensions and the fantasies of her flacks that she is the reincarnation of the war hero in a purple wig -- that Kyrsten Sinema is no John McCain.

Lately Sinema has advertised herself as a "maverick," by which she means that she flouts the positions and policies of her party's leadership, and is supposed to pair her with McCain, who sometimes strayed from the Republican party line. Her most notorious attempt at imitation occurred last year with a gesture on the Senate floor marking her vote against a minimum wage increase. Her coy mimicry of the admired war hero was synthetic, leaving an unpleasant odor in its wake. When McCain delivered his bold "thumbs down" on gutting Obamacare, he was protecting Arizona's working families – not betraying them.

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