"I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression," he told The Guardian. "Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone."
Snowden reported to Fort Benning, Ga., in June 2004, where "he attempted to qualify to become a special forces soldier but did not complete the requisite training and was administratively discharged," said an Army spokesman, Col. David H. Patterson Jr.
Snowden left the Army at the end of that September. He mentioned on the tech forum that he was discharged after breaking both legs in accident, a detail the Army could not confirm.
He returned home, enrolling again in classes at the community college and working through most of 2005 as a security guard at the University of Maryland's Center for Advanced Study of Language, a mile off campus. The center, affiliated with the Department of Defense, says on its LinkedIn page that it was founded after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to help the intelligence community improve language preparedness. But a university spokesman said the center's work is not classified.
When he went public with his decision to leak the NSA's documents, Snowden told interviewers that he studied at Maryland, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Liverpool.
A Maryland spokesman, Crystal Brown, said Snowden did not take classes at the school's flagship campus. However, Robert Ludwig, a spokesman for the University of Maryland University College, which offers classes online and at military bases, said Snowden registered for one term in its Asia Division in the summer of 2009, but did not earn a certificate or degree.
Johns Hopkins said it had no record of Snowden taking classes. The only possibility, the school said, is that he might have enrolled at a private, for-profit entity that offered career training under the name Computer Career Institute at Johns Hopkins University. The university said it ended its relationship with the training school in 2009 and it had since shut down, making it impossible to check any records.
Liverpool said in a statement that Snowden had registered for an online masters' program in computer security in 2011, but never completed it.
Snowden has said that he was hired by the CIA to work on information technology security and in 2007 was assigned by the agency to work in Geneva, Switzerland. Anderson, Snowden's friend at the time, made the same assertion.
The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed that Snowden lived and worked in Geneva, where it says he was accredited to the United Nations as a U.S. Mission employee from March 2007 to February 2009.
Snowden appears to have been well-known among U.S. staff in Geneva, though none of those contacted by the AP would comment about him. But Anderson, who met Snowden when she spent part of 2007 as a legal intern at the mission, said many others can't speak out in his defense, for fear of losing their jobs. In both the cable TV interview and an op-ed piece for Tennessee's Chattanooga Times Free Press, she recalled him fondly as very intelligent — and increasingly troubled about his work.
"During that time period he did quit the CIA, so I knew that he was having a crisis of conscience of sorts," Anderson said in the TV interview. "But I am still surprised, even shocked. He never gave me any indication that he would reveal anything that was top secret." She could not be reached for additional comment.
Snowden told The Guardian he was discouraged by an incident in which he claimed CIA agents tried to recruit a Swiss banker to provide secret information. They purposely got him drunk, Snowden said, and when he was arrested for driving while intoxicated, an agent offered to help as a way to forge a bond.
"Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world," he said.
Snowden has said he left the embassy to take a job with private contractors for the NSA — first with Dell, the computer company.
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