I was a full-fledged, undercover US spy: NSA whistleblower Snowden

Edward J Snowden, the fugitive former National Security Agency contractor who blew the whistle on the United States' all-encompassing surveillance programme, said in a rare interview in Russia that he was trained to serve the US intelligence community as a traditional spy and not a low-level computer technician, as he has been often portrayed under the influence of administration officials.

Speaking to NBC News' Brian Williams in a Moscow hotel, Snowden, who has obtained temporary asylum in Russia after fleeing the US last summer, said, ''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 [working in] and even being assigned a name that was not mine.''

Snowden said that he still considered himself to be an American patriot even after leaking thousands of classified documents, and that he was frustrated to be ''stuck in a place'' (Russia) that did so little to protect individual rights, when he was trying to help protect American freedoms.

He said he was alarmed that the Russian government was cracking down on freedom of the press, and called it ''deeply unfair''.

Almost immediately, US Secretary of State John Kerry struck back in an interview with Charlie Rose of CBS News, daring Snowden to come back to the US to face justice for exposing the NSA's mass global surveillance of internet and telephone communications.

Kerry said, ''The bottom line is this is a man who has betrayed his country, who is sitting in Russia, an authoritarian country, where he has taken refuge. He should man up and come back to the US if he has a complaint about what's the matter with American surveillance, come back here and stand in our system of justice and make his case.''

However Snowden appeared to use the opportunity to speak out against what he suggested was the administration's misinformation regarding his past profile as covert agent of the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency.

''What they are trying to do is that they are trying to use one position to distract from the totality of my experience, which is: I've worked for the CIA – undercover, overseas, I've worked for the NSA – undercover, overseas, and I've worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency as a lecturer at the joint counter-intelligence training,'' he said.

Media reports noted that the administration confirmed that Snowden had indeed delivered at least three lectures at DIA conferences, with some quoting unspecified sources confirming that he ''really used to be a CIA IT and communications specialist working overseas''.