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December 23, 2013

NSA leaker Edward J. Snowden shares his tips for enjoying the holidays while in exile in Russia



10 Ways To Survive The Holidays In Exile

by Edward J. Snowden



Christmas is a time for togetherness and making warm memories. But the holidays can also be emotionally challenging, especially for Americans hiding in Russia in fear of rendition from the United States government. Here are some tips for making the best of the holidays while evading capture:



10. Reconsider Travel

If you were intending to travel to visit family for the holidays, you may want to change your plans now that the United States considers you a threat to national security. Holiday air travel is replete with delays, baggage restrictions, and security requirements. The last thing you’d want to add to that list of headaches is several days of enhanced interrogation techniques while blindfolded in a secret detention facility. Consider asking trusted family members and friends to come to you instead. Hosting a low-key holiday with a few, pre-screened loved ones can be a much saner way to spend the season while on asylum.  Before the fun begins, make sure to search their body cavities for listening devices and have them taste any dishes they brought before eating them yourself.  It sounds rigorous, but you just might discover some new holiday traditions!


9. Lower Your Expectations

Look around, you’re on political asylum in a hostile nation.  Don't expect praise, warmth and approval from the citizenry of your host nation.  Whether you’re living for months in an airport terminal or hiding out in a dingy apartment relying on care packages from Julian Assange, the locals will view you suspiciously. Don’t expect them to immediately welcome you to the table this Christmas.  Instead, be a gracious host and treat them as honored guests in your undisclosed hideout. They will either open up to you or not, but you won't care because you’ll be imbibed with Christmas cheer!




8. A Dab Of Spit Stops A Run In Your Stockings

Notice a run in the pair of stockings you're wearing to that holiday party tonight and/or using to conceal your face? A little bit of spit will keep it from spreading! 


7. Be Your Own Santa

The holidays can evoke feelings of loneliness, especially when you're wanted for exposing the crimes of a powerful nation against its own people.  But while your old friends at the CIA are out spending hundreds of dollars on gifts for their significant others, you’re not. There's your silver lining. So you might as well treat yourself to a little something that will lift your spirits. Go out and get yourself that new encrypted cell phone you’ve been eyeing, or maybe a workout video that could possibly land you a date for next year’s holiday festivities if you are still alive!


6. Adapt To New Traditions

Unless you really want to stick out like a sore thumb, don’t hide in a foreign land and start celebrating Christmas like you’re back home in the United States. Other countries don’t have “Black Friday”, meaning your new neighbors might take offense if you start punching and spitting to get your hands on the best items in that meager, Moscow department store. Blending into the traditions of your new home can help ease the tension that often surrounds being a wanted fugitive. Ask a stranger to describe family rituals - such as special prayers, toasts, foods, or after-dinner games or activities - and surprise your new compatriots by embracing their local customs. Tip: assuming the traditional dress of your host country is a great way to show respect and avoid being dragged off the street into the windowless van that’s been following you for weeks.


5. Mingle With The Kids

Too often the holidays are a time for older family members to nag you about things like being 30-something and still single or absconding with the nation's most guarded secrets. You know who doesn’t care about that stuff? Kids. So, this holiday season, take some time out to sit at the kids’ table and talk about what truly matters to children in your new Russian homeland, like: outing gay schoolmates, playing soccer with the severed heads of the homeless, and singing songs from Spokoynoy Nochi, Malyshi! And let’s face it, kids are soft targets. If a drone strikes you while you’re alone at home sending encoded messages to British journalists, nobody will bat an eye. But surrounding yourself with Russia’s children will make it slightly harder for President Obama to give the order (but you can’t be sure!).


4. Collaborate On Festivities

When you’re being hunted across the globe like an animal, you will feel tempted not to trust anyone enough to allow them to help you cook and prepare for Christmas. But just because you’re in exile doesn’t mean you can’t let others pitch in. Invite your lawyers to bring hors d'oeuvres or desserts to your holiday party instead of trying to do all the cooking and baking yourself. If you’ve really caught the holiday bug, you can host a cookie swap in which each member of your fugitive smuggling ring brings a batch of cookies and then leaves with a variety in equal amount - preferably enough to stuff several gift baskets that you can bring down to the men who are watching you on the street.


3. Try To Accept The People You’re Celebrating With As They Are

We all know that you can’t pick your family and you certainly can’t pick the people who are trying to protect you from prosecution and torture. Trust me, after having restricted movement for months surrounded day after day with the same Russian comrades, you will begin to be annoyed by the harmless idiosyncrasies of the people who are looking after you. This is natural. But before you snap at Boris because he has flecks of kutya and pagach in his beard AGAIN, remember that his wife was inprisoned for voting and this children sell their teeth for porridge.




2. See The Holidays Through The Eyes Of A Child

When you live under constant threat of abduction and everyone you encounter is a potential threat, it’s easy to forget the magic of Christmas. It’s important to remember that the holiday season is a time for generosity, warmth and solidarity. While a walk outside to see the holiday lights in your neighborhood or attending the public lighting of a Christmas tree are probably too dangerous, there are other ways to soak up the festive spirit around you. Disposable cell phones are great for taking pictures of a wintery scene which can then be manually transferred to an offline server before setting the phone on fire. And, this Christmas, if a neighbor sees you peering through the crack of your barely opened door, don’t immediately slit her throat. Remember the spirit of the season and listen to her plees for her life. She could be useful to you at some point. And accepting generosity from others is what Christmas is all about.


1. Don’t Underestimate The Value Of Sending Christmas Cards
Finally, if there’s one thing that I’ve hopefully made clear to everyone, it’s that the United States is listening to and reading your communications. All. Of. Them. Christmas cards are a great way to communicate because they contain no meta-data. So have a friend snap a happy looking photo of you in-doors against a blank wall (outdoor backdrops can give away your location) and slap it onto a Christmas card. You can send these online with no return address required. And while you’re at it, send one to your friends at the White House.  After all, they’ve broken at least as many laws as you have.


Sno Ho Ho!