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NSA staffer: Edward Snowden was "a genius among geniuses"

Edward Snowden was a "genius among geniuses," according to a National Security Agency (NSA) staffer who spoke to Forbes on condition of anonymity.

"That kid was a genius among geniuses," said the unnamed employee. "NSA is full of smart people, but anybody who sat in a meeting with Ed will tell you he was in a class of his own."

"I've never seen anything like it," he added.

Edward Snowden came to national attention in June of this year, when he absconded to Hong Kong with 200,000 classified documents and began leaking them to the press with the help of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras.

The latest report follows on the heels of a number of exclusive interviews given by NSA employees on an unprecedented display of openness on the US cable channel CBS' news show, 60 Minutes.

However, the interviews given by the NSA employees have been criticised by The Guardian as being "flawed" and a "publicity tour".

The Forbes source has come out against the suppositions of the 60 minutes interviews that Snowden hacked his colleagues' computers, and suggested that Snowden was able to gain access to large amounts of sensitive files simply because his superiors were impressed with his talents. It is even reported that he was offered a place at the elite hacking team known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO), which is used to gain access to the computer networks of enemies of the Unites States. And some others, of course.

However, Snowden turned down the position, and instead took up a place with Booz Allen Hamilton to work at the NSA's Threat Operations Center in Waipahu, Hawai'i.

At that point, Snowden had already impressed NSA officials by developing a backup system that the NSA had widely implemented in codebreaking operations. He was given full access privileges in order to help build a web front-end for one of its projects.

"Big mistake in hindsight," said the source, who is one of Snowden's former colleagues. "But if you had a guy who could do things nobody else could, and the only problem was that his badge was green instead of blue, what would you do?"

The unnamed security agency employee rubbished claims that Snowden had hacked colleague's accounts in order to gather his information, and told Forbes that he or she has slowly come round to understanding Snowden's thought process.

"I was shocked and betrayed when I first learned the news, but as more time passes I'm inclined to believe he really is trying to do the right thing and it's not out of character for him. I don't agree with his methods, but I understand why he did it," the source said. "I won't call him a hero, but he's sure as hell no traitor."