And so it's easy for some of the 3,000 attendees at the Joint Mathematics Meeting — a big event for their community - to engage in some moral posturing and state that mathematicians should refuse to work for the NSA. The NSA just happens to be the biggest employer of mathematicians in the country.
Who thinks people should quit? People who already have jobs somewhere else and won't be trying to look for a new job - as a mathematician. So it is easy for Thomas Hales, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, to call himself a “mathematician who’s upset about what’s going on” but if Pitt did something corrupt, would he quit his job?
Lots of people who already have other jobs can claim they are dismayed that the NSA is a popular place to work. Well, the government is the only place that continues to hire during the lingering economic death roll, where the 1% get richer, stocks go up, and a giant chunk of the working age public is unemployed. Guaranteed pension, government health care, rather than the stuff the public is forced to buy, and a higher average income than the private sector? You'd be crazy to want to go on unemployment.
Is this naming and shaming of government mathematicians going to work? I think not. There is zero chance the the American Mathematical Society is turning down any grants either. Ethics is subjective and rationalization is easy.
Mathematicians Urge Colleagues To Refuse To Work For The NSA by Kashmir Hill, Forbes