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Snowden's 'spy' revelation is much ado about nothing

A lot of news organizations are treating Ed Snowden's claim that he was "trained as a spy" as a new revelation. Here's what he said in an interview that will air on NBC this evening:

I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked under cover overseas pretending to work in a job that I'm not and even being assigned a name that was not mine.

This only seems like news because people are conflating two different meanings of the word spy.

In one sense, "spy" just means someone who operates overseas collecting information about a foreign government. It's not news that Snowden has done that. Snowden has said before that the CIA stationed him in Geneva under diplomatic cover from 2007 to 2009.

The word "spy" can also refer to people who are specifically focused on human, rather than electronic, intelligence gathering. But in this week's NBC interview, Snowden is clear that this wasn't his role: "I don't work with people, I don't recruit agents."