Amid heightened tensions following the Apple vs FBI controversy, a privacy advocacy group in the US has launched a petition calling for the resignation of FBI director James Comey.
Fight for the Future, which has previously campaigned on everything from the CISA surveillance law to the much-maligned Trans-Pacific Partnership, has claimed the agency chief is "off the rails" and slammed his apparent "crusade" against encryption.
The attempt to overthrow the FBI boss comes after investigators attempted to use the courts to force the unlocking of an iPhone 5C at the centre of a terrorism investigation. At the time, critics argued the case was more about about setting a precedent than getting access to the device. Eventually the FBI found its own solution – reportedly by enlisting the help of hackers for a hefty fee.
"Lost touch with reality"
"Your recent statements and actions in the Apple vs FBI case have made it clear: you've lost touch with reality in your misguided crusade against basic encryption technology," wrote Fight for the Future on its petition page – which has amassed just over 7,500 signatures from concerned digital citizens at the time of writing.
The statement continues: "The worst part is that your quest against encryption is not only an attack on our civil liberties, it's an attack on our all of our security and public safety. Encryption protects our hospitals, airports, and power plants. Your obsession with demonising basic security technology could seriously harm our national security.
"You're hurting your own reputation, but you're also hurting us. You've lost sight of what's important, and what so many people love and value about America. If you continue as FBI Director, we believe you will do irrevocable harm to our country. We implore you to resign."
Despite previous claims from Comey that encryption is enabling criminals using the internet to operate in secret, other high-profile officials in the US government - including the current chief of the NSA - have maintained that encrypted communications are "foundational to the future" of the internet.
In light of this, Fight for the Future argue that Comey is simply attempting to "circumvent the constitution in the name of fighting terrorism." The statement adds: "When even the NSA thinks you're spying too hard, it's time to resign."
In an email to The Daily Dot, Evan Greer, campaign director at Fight for the Future, acknowledged the petition is unlikely to force the director out-of-office and instead said it was designed to "send a message".
Greer explained: "I think this is more one of those 'someone had to say it' situations. The goal of the letter is to show that Comey is isolated and extreme. Do I think he's just going to read this and suddenly decide to resign? Probably not. But he's increasingly losing credibility in DC and beyond, and we think this effort will help continue to highlight that."