Mavanee Anderson, who wrote an op-ed for a Tennessee newspaper on Wednesday about serving with Snowden when he was a U.S. attaché in Geneva from 2007 to 2009 -- a time when Snowden said he was really working undercover in computer systems security for the CIA -- said Snowden was insecure about his academic washouts.
"He talked a great deal about the fact that he didn't complete high school when he and I were in close contact," Anderson wrote. "But he is an IT [information technology] whiz — I've always taken it for granted that he's an IT genius, really — who came by most of his skill and knowledge on his own."
David Charney, a psychiatrist who works regularly with CIA agents and who has personally evaluated some of the nation's most notorious spies, said in an interview that Snowden appears to fit a familiar archetype – that of a man who is perpetually trying to prove that he is smarter than his resume may indicate.
"He comes across to me as being fiercely bright and articulate, there's a mismatch between how his life went before and what he is actually," Charney said. "And that discrepancy is the thing that makes some people say, 'I'm going to prove to the world, I'm going to show everybody that I'm smarter than they think I am.'"
ABC News has been able to establish a number of stops Snowden professed to have made during a career that led him to an NSA contractor's office in Hawaii earlier this year.
Snowden told the Guardian he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2003 in an effort to become an Army Green Beret – dropping out when he broke both legs in a training accident. In an online post later apparently penned by Snowden, he talks about breaking both his legs during AIT, or Advanced Infantry Training, but does not say how it happened.
Army officials at the Pentagon said Snowden actually didn't enlist until May 7, 2004 and reported for duty at Fort Benning, Georgia, a month later for a special program to train enlistees for a career in Special Forces. Snowden was assigned to the 198th Infantry Brigade for his training. The Army said Snowden was "administratively discharged" as a private first class, but cited the federal Privacy Act in declining to say more.
Adding another wrinkle, Army officials at Fort Benning said extensive searches of their records showed there was no evidence that Snowden had ever reported for duty at the base. They referred further questions to the Pentagon.
"He did not complete any training or receive any awards," Army spokesman George Wright at the Pentagon said.
Snowden's Army record show he attended Catonsville Community College in 2002 and attended Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland.
Catonsville Community College actually became the Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville in 1998. Hope Davis, spokesperson for CCBC says they have "no record" of a student with that name ever attending school there.
The Anne Arundel college has an academic program affiliated with the National Security Agency and an official with the school confirmed someone with his name took classes there from 1999 to 2005. But the official said Snowden did not earn a certificate or degree, and took no cyber security or computer science classes.