Just in case Edward Snowden and Julian Assange might be out and about in US military bases or buildings, the US Defense Security Service created posters of the two enemies of the state so military staff could watch out for these “infamous spies.”
Or maybe it’s all a joke?
The posters, tweeted by Wikileaks yesterday and first posted on Reddit over a year ago, contain the men’s head shots, year of birth, a short bio, and a blurb about their alleged crimes. They’re part of the “Espionage Series”—that includes both “infamous spies” and “famous spies” (note the subtlety) such as Bradley Manning and Belle Boyd, a Confederate spy during the Civil War. (Boyd and many others in the series have been long dead.)
All are available for download (in 8.5 x 11 and 17 x 22 sizes) from the Center for Development of Security Excellence website, a subsidiary of the US Department of Defense’s Defense Security Service (DSS) that provides “security education and training to DoD security professionals through formal classroom and distributed learning methodologies,” according to the official website.
According to the DSS, the posters are meant for Defense agencies “to download and promote security awareness in the workplace.”
To show that these are official, the posters come with a Defense Security Service seal on the top right. Snowden, who disclosed the National Security Agency’s global surveillance program in 2013, is crowned the one who “SPILLED THE BEANS AND RAN,” while Assange, the Australian founder of the Wikileaks database is “THE HACK BEHIND WIKILEAKS.” Although the posters look super fake, they are in fact official materials (the seal proves it, obviously.)
When asked why the Snowden and Assange posters have recently been removed from the web page (the internet archive shows they had lived on the website at least between Sept. 2014 and April 2016), the DSS said they had “determined that several [posters] required further review.”
Instead of the grizzled mug shots typical of wanted posters, Snowden and Assange both appear angelic in their photos, with vulnerable doe eyes looking into off the frame. Are they superheroes or supervillains? Or maybe the world’s two most polarizing spies are more like the missing kids that end up on the side of a milk carton—innocents caught up in catastrophe.
With a scandalous red masthead and condensed headline font, the Espionage Series posters ape the front page of a sensational tabloid. A closer look reveals that the text is rendered in a comic book font, as if Snowden and Assange were fictional characters in a fictitious war—or perhaps to telegraph that the whole thing is a prank.