In his memoir "Permanent Record," former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, who received asylum in Russia, says that Moscow winters make it easier for him to remain anonymous.
"Whenever I go outside, I try to change my appearance a bit. Maybe I get rid of my beard, maybe I wear different glasses. I never liked the cold until I realized that a hat and a scarf provide the world’s most convenient and inconspicuous anonymity," Snowden writes in his memoir published on Tuesday. "I change the rhythm and pace of my walk, and, contrary to the sage advice of my mother, I look away from traffic when crossing the street, which is why I’ve never been caught on any of the car dashcams that are ubiquitous here," TASS reports.
"I used to worry about the bus and the metro, but nowadays, everybody’s too busy staring at their phones to give a second glance," Snowden said. "If I take a cab, I’ll have it pick me up at a bus or metro stop a few blocks away from where I live and drop me off at an address a few blocks away from where I’m going," he added.
In June 2013, Snowden leaked classified information to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, which revealed global surveillance programs run by US and British intelligence agencies.
After leaking classified data, Snowden flew to Hong Kong and then to Moscow, arriving in Russia on June 23, 2013. He applied for political asylum to more than 20 countries while staying in the transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
On July 16, he applied for a temporary asylum in Russia, accepting Moscow’s condition to refrain from activities aimed against the US. On August 1, 2013, Snowden was granted a one-year temporary asylum. On August 1, 2014, he received a three-year residence permit, which was later extended until 2020.
The NSA and the Pentagon claim that Snowden stole about 1.7 mln classified documents concerning the activities of US intelligence services and US military operations. He is charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person. He is facing up to ten years in prison on each charge.