For every Edward Snowden, there are thousands of people who continue to keep the cogs of mass surveillance turning. But perhaps some of them might want to call it quits.
A new initiative is trying to encourage those in the intelligence community to leave their jobs and turn whistleblower, by generating resignation letters, offering counseling services, and raising billboards outside of major spying facilities. While it's obviously a bit tongue-in-cheek, the campaign at least aims to start a discussion about the human element behind the modern surveillance apparatus.
"Intelexit", as the initative is called, "speaks to employees who are unsatisfied in their jobs, due to moral conflicts, and encourages them to consider termination of employment as an act of personal strength and a contribution to democracy," according to a press release. It has been set up by Peng!, a collective that pulls stunts around social justice issues.
The Intelexit site comes with an infomercial-style video, which features NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, security expert Bruce Schneier, and former Stasi officer Walter Eichner. It even offers an easy-to-use, five-step process for generating a resignation letter.
Potential whistleblowers first have to select whether the agency they work for "has lost its moral compass," "violates fundamental freedom or democratic principles," or "abuses that idea of 'national security' in order to justify violations of the constitution."
From here, the intelligence worker completes a multiple choice quiz on how their job makes them feel, their observations around the current structure of the community, what concerns they have, and why they disagree with mass surveillance.
If the worker wants to go ahead and get in touch with Intelexit, they can do so via a Tor hidden service, which apparently encrypts all received messages with PGP. (The encryption doesn't happen on the user's computer, but only after the message has arrived on Intelexit's server, so it's probably not best to use it if you're seriously thinking about blowing the whistle on surveillance policies.)
"What is more important is at least to trigger a discussion on the role of these individuals within these intelligence agencies and in society in general," Jérémie Zimmermann, a co-founder of digital rights group La Quadrature du Net who worked on Intelexit with Peng!, told Motherboard over encrypted chat. "We also want them to start talking about it, to discuss it around themselves (around the super-secret coffee machine in the 7th basement floor?), to make them feel free to ask themselves these questions."
Today, billboards were raised by Intelexit outside of the NSA's headquarters Fort Meade, GCHQ's base in the UK, and three locations in Germany including the building hosting the country's signals intelligence agency.
Tomorrow, Intelexit will be phoning, faxing and emailing members of the intelligence community. "We'll tell them that we understand they might be in some form of moral distress, that we want to help them, and that we can give them personal consultations if they want," Zimmermann said. He wouldn't reveal the sources of those contact details, but said that it wasn't just open source information.
A GCHQ spokesperson told Motherboard in an emailed statement, "We have no comment to make on this campaign. GCHQ has several formal lines of accountability and a culture and ethos of high ethical standards among our workforce."