Intelexit to NSA-ers: Listen to Your Heart, Not to Private Phone Calls
Taking a sly cue from their adversaries, activists from Intelexit, "the world’s first exit program for the intelligence community," sent a drone Friday over the central base for US surveillance operations in Europe, dropping leaflets to urge any of the center's 1,100 employees "in distress (from) their tacit involvement in spying” to leave their jobs. The action by the Berlin-based anti-surveillance group was part of a newly launched campaign to encourage ambivalent employees at NSA and the British spy agency GCHQ to question the morality of their work and leave the dark side.
The campaign, undertaken with the help of the civil disobedience collective Peng!, kicked off with a series of mobile billboards strategically placed near intelligence complexes. They bore messages addressed directly to surveillance workers, urging them to think about what they're doing and to act on their doubts: “Listen to your heart, not to private phone calls,” “The intelligence community needs a backdoor,” and “Complicit in mass surveillance and drone wars?” The idea, says an Intelexit spokesperson, is to humanize not demonize them, to "meet them eye to eye." But going to the sites has its own drawbacks: "In general, the response from the intelligence community has been to try and get rid of us as quickly as possible."
Hence, the drone, their first. They flew it over the Dagger Complex in Germany, south of Frankfurt, which houses the NSA's military branch and the European Cryptologic Center, a major source of intelligence in Europe for the NSA; workers there monitor massive amounts of communication using tools that include Xkeyscore, one of the programs revealed by Edward Snowden. The drone released flyers offering “exit intelligence” to workers who are experiencing "moral conflict" - places, including Intelexit's website, where they can get information, support and counselling to reach what they call a "back door to democracy."
In large part thanks to Snowden, the campaign is part of a growing German protest movement against digital surveillance; they include home-grown groups like the "Society for the Protection of NSA Spies," which takes weekly "nature walks" near Dagger to "explore the endangered habitat of NSA." Intelexit is supported by whistleblowers including Thomas Drake, the former NSA official indicted for leaking classified documents that turned out not to be - or in his view, for questioning the NSA tenet of "doing anything we could get away with." In a video for Intelexit, Drake says he hopes his own experience will show other disenchanted agents "looking to get out" that they are not alone: “In some cases you do need a mirror that shows you that you have the choice to leave.”