Feature

What Edward Snowden's handwriting says about him

A graphologist weighs in

Edward Snowden formally asked the Russian government for temporary asylum this week, requesting that it allow him to remain in the country a little while longer as he tries to secure permanent lodging elsewhere.

Snowden, who has been camped out in a Moscow airport for weeks, made the request in a one-sentence, handwritten letter.

So what can we glean about Snowden's personality — as well as the impact of his stressful, uncertain predicament — from his handwriting?

"This writing is not comfortable and flowing, but shows someone who is detached from the outside world in some ways, as the structure is pared down to the minimum and the letter shapes are abrupt and lack warmth," Elaine Quigley, a former chairman of the British Institute of Graphologists, told The Week. (Graphology, for those not in the know, is the psychological analysis of handwriting.)

"The writing lacks vision and imagination and, while there is attention to detail, there is not a wide understanding of how to handle people empathically," she added.

Quigley suggested he had trouble expressing emotions and connecting with people as a result of a "limited social understanding" — a reflection, perhaps, of being holed up in a foreign airport for weeks.

"There is no warmth or feeling being expressed in this script and the vertical direction of the letters, along with careful i-dots and t-bars, show a thinker, rather than an emoter," she said. "There is intelligence, but not practicality, though he can be resourceful in the activity of surviving."

That Snowden framed his request with the personal pronoun "I" was "an indication of the need for parameters and boundaries, because he doesn't conceptualize or use his imagination," she said.

As for his signature?

The fact that the signature has a slightly unfocused structure, could well be because he doesn't actually know himself who he is. Something of a Walter Mitty, with the roof shape protecting him from the unknown. If anyone had to make a guess at the name, they would get the Edward, but the surname is not included visibly, though he may see it in his own mind. The signature is his face to the world, so we can see with the rightward slant that he craves attention, but does not want to give away any of his independence or to lose control of his actions and freedom.

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