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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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