President Obama seemed to be downplaying Edward Snowden's importance when he dismissed him as "a 29-year-old hacker." But hacking was, in a sense, Snowden's actual job description, the New York Times points out. Officials have been careful not to mention Snowden's actual title, which was "infrastructure analyst," perhaps because it would invite questions about what an infrastructure analyst does. The answer, in the Times' words, is that they act "like a burglar casing an apartment building, looking for new ways to break into Internet and telephone traffic."
One of the documents Snowden revealed is a secret presidential directive ordering the NSA's technicians to identify potential cyberwarfare targets. This indicates that Snowden would have been examining foreign systems with two aims: find ways to steal their secrets and ID the ones that belong on a target list. And the documents make clear that this wasn't only aimed at terrorists, but also, to quote the Times again, at "foreigners of any conceivable interest," including, as we recently learned, the European Union—a revelation that has the US scrambling. For more on Snowden's current plight, click here.