[cryptography] Cryptographer Adi Shamir Prevented from Attending NSA History Conference

ianG iang at iang.org
Thu Oct 17 05:01:05 EDT 2013


I doubt this is anything to do with cryptography.  I would suspect it is 
more to do with jobs / science debate that most countries have every 
time the jobs market gets tough or the science numbers start to look 
like banana republic.

The general knee-jerk response to MSM angst by the bureaucrats 
(politicians instructing the State Dept, but common around the world) is 
to slow down visas to the educated.

The less amusing thing is that slowing down visas to high-end talent is 
precisely the wrong thing to do in economic terms, because these people 
bring in opportunities and enlarge the pie, they don't take from a 
shrinking pie.  But, there it is!  There is now even a separate branch 
of economics dealing with why lessons such as Ricardo's concepts in free 
trade remain unlearnt, after hundreds of years.



iang


On 17/10/13 11:29 AM, Eugen Leitl wrote:
>
> http://blogs.fas.org/secrecy/2013/10/shamir/
>
> Cryptographer Adi Shamir Prevented from Attending NSA History Conference
>
> Categories: Science, Secrecy
>
> In this email message to colleagues, Israeli cryptographer Adi Shamir
> recounts the difficulties he faced in getting a visa to attend the 2013
> Cryptologic History Symposium sponsored by the National Security Agency. Adi
> Shamir is the “S” in the RSA public-key algorithm and is “one of the finest
> cryptologists in the world today,” according to historian David Kahn. The NSA
> Symposium begins tomorrow. For the reasons described below, Dr. Shamir will
> not be there.
>
> From: Adi Shamir
> Date: October 15, 2013 12:16:28 AM EDT
> To:
> Subject: A personal apology
>
> The purpose of this email is to explain why I will not be able to attend the
> forthcoming meeting of the History of Cryptology conference, even though I
> submitted a paper which was formally accepted. As an active participant in
> the exciting developments in academic cryptography in the last 35 years, I
> thought that it would be a wonderful opportunity to meet all of you, but
> unfortunately the US bureaucracy has made this impossible.
>
> The story is too long to describe in detail, so I will only provide its main
> highlights here. I planned to visit the US for several months, in order to
> attend the Crypto 2013 conference, the History of Cryptology conference, and
> to visit several universities and research institutes in between in order to
> meet colleagues and give scientific lectures. To do all of these, I needed a
> new J1 visa, and I filed the visa application at the beginning of June, two
> and a half months before my planned departure to the Crypto conference in mid
> August. I applied so early since it was really important for me to attend the
> Crypto conference – I was one of the founders of this flagship annual
> academic event (I actually gave the opening talk in the first session of the
> first meeting of this conference in 1981) and I did my best to attend all its
> meetings in the last 32 years.
>
> To make a long story short, after applying some pressure and pulling a lot of
> strings, I finally got the visa stamped in my passport on September 30-th,
> exactly four months after filing my application, and way beyond the requested
> start date of my visit. I was lucky in some sense, since on the next day the
> US government went into shutdown, and I have no idea how this could have
> affected my case. Needless to say, the long uncertainty had put all my travel
> plans (flights, accomodations, lecture commitments, etc) into total disarray.
>
> It turns out that I am not alone, and many foreign scientists are now facing
> the same situation. Here is what the president of the Weizmann Institute of
> Science (where I work in Israel) wrote in July 2013 to the US Ambassador in
> Israel:
>
> “I’m allowing myself to write you again, on the same topic, and related to
> the major difficulties the scientists of the Weizmann Institute of Science
> are experiencing in order to get Visa to the US. In my humble opinion, we are
> heading toward a disaster, and I have heard many people, among them our top
> scientists, saying that they are not willing anymore to visit the US, and
> collaborate with American scientists, because of the difficulties. It is
> clear that scientists have been singled out, since I hear that other ‘simple
> citizen’, do get their visa in a short time.”
>
> Even the president of the US National Academy of Science (of which I am a
> member) tried to intervene, without results. He was very sympathetic, writing
> to me at some stage:
>
> “Dear Professor Shamir
>
> I have been hoping, day by day, that your visa had come through. It is very
> disappointing to receive your latest report. We continue to try by seeking
> extra attention from the U. S. Department of State, which has the sole
> authority in these matters. As you know, the officers of the Department of
> State in embassies around the world also have much authority. I am personally
> very sympathetic and hopeful that your efforts and patience will still yield
> results but also realize that this episode has been very trying. We hope to
> hear of a last-minute success.
>
> Yours sincerely, Ralph J. Cicerone”
>
> What does all of this have to do with the History of Cryptology conference?
> In January 2013 I submitted a paper titled “The Cryptology of John Nash From
> a Modern Perspective” to the conference, and a short time afterwards I was
> told by the organizers that it was accepted. In July 2013 I told the
> NSA-affiliated conference organizers that I was having some problems in
> getting my visa, and gently asked whether they could do something about it.
> Always eager to help, the NSA people leaped into action, and immediately sent
> me a short email written with a lot of tact:
>
> “The trouble you are having is regrettable…Sorry you won’t be able to come to
> our conference. We have submitted our program and did not include you on it.”
>
> I must admit that in my 35 years of attending many conferences, it had never
> happened to me that an accepted paper of mine was yanked out from the
> official program in such a unilateral way. However, since I never try to go
> to places where I do not feel wanted, I decided to inform MIT that a window
> had become available in my busy schedule. They immediately invited me to
> visit them on October 17 and 18, and to give a major lecture during my visit.
> Naturally, I accepted their gracious invitation.
>
> The final twist in this saga happened a few days ago, when out of the blue I
> was suddenly reinvited by the conference organizers to attend the event and
> to present my paper. However, this is too late now, since I am already fully
> committed to my visit to MIT.
>
> So what is the bottom line of this whole unhappy episode? Clearly, no one in
> the US is trying to see the big picture, and the heavy handed visa
> bureaucracy you have created seems to be collapsing under its own weight.
> This is not a security issue – I have been to the US close to a hundred times
> so far (including some multi-year visits), and had never overstayed my visas.
> In addition, the number of terrorists among the members of the US National
> Academy of Science is rather small. As a friend of the US I am deeply worried
> that if you continue to delay visas in such a way, the only thing you will
> achieve is to alienate many world-famous foreign scientists, forcing them to
> increase their cooperation with European or Chinese scientists whose
> countries roll the red carpet for such visits. Is this really in the US best
> interest?
>
> Best personal wishes, and apologies for not being able to meet you in person,
>
> Adi Shamir
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