This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Edward Snowden considers himself a patriot, telling the South China Morning Post – from an undisclosed location in Hong Kong, “I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American.”

Snowden also tells the newspaper there’s something else you did not know about the US government’s hacking activities, claiming the NSA has been actively hacking computers in China and Honk Kong since 2009:

“We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one.”

A State Department spokesperson offered this less-than-clear explanation about the hacking and surveillance activities.

“There is a difference between, you know, going after economic data and financial information that is part of these cyber-attacks, or seems to be, and an issue which the president has welcomed a debate on, which is–and the administration has welcomed the debate on–which is surveillance, and going after people who mean to do harm”, said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.

But the NSA’s director told lawmakers Wednesday, that, in general, his agency’s surveillance programs — disclosed in great detail by Snowden – have saved lives.

“It’s dozens of terrorist events that these have helped prevent. I want the American people to know that we’re being transparent in here,” said NSA Director Army General Keith Alexander.

What is clear is – while the public may not have known about the existence of the NSA’s mass collection of internet data, and data mining of Verizon landlines, Hollywood got it right several years ago – as depicted in a scene from the 2008 movie, “The Dark Knight.”

You don’t have to be Batman – or have his resources — in order to wield this kind of technological expertise.

“There’s always been this culture within the hacker community that it’s about what you do – or what you can do, rather than who you are,” NYU Polytechnic Computer Science Professor Justin Cappos told Pix11.

Cappos helps oversee a program called “Hack Night”.

He says his class teaches bright students how to attack networks, in order to defend them in the corporate world.

“It’s important for one to understand what can go wrong and things can go wrong, can be exploited by an attacker so that you can go and defend against those,” said Cappos.