Author's Opinion

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of iTWire.

Have your say and comment below.

Monday, 11 March 2019 06:34

US should hang its head in shame over Shamir visa issue

US should hang its head in shame over Shamir visa issue Courtesy YouTube

The US, which touts itself as the land of the free, should hang its head in shame over the refusal to renew a tourist visa for celebrated Israeli cryptographer Adi Shamir so he could attend the RSA Conference in San Francisco last week, an event he co-founded 27 years ago.

Shamir, a Turing Award winner and a globally renowned cryptographer, sent a brief video to the conference to explain his absence. It was played during the Cryptographers' Panel, a feature at every RSAC, in which he could not participate this year.

Israel is not on the list of countries which are part of the US visa waiver program, so Shamir would have had to go through the regular process for a tourist visa renewal, which looks to be quite onerous. Having gone through the process to obtain a journalist's visa for the US once, this writer can testify that the US system is not the most efficient in the world.

India, which is generally described as chaotic and disorderly, provides a tourist visa within 24 hours after an online application. Germany (when I applied in the UAE as the holder of an Indian passport) is very efficient. In the case of many other countries, a visitor who intends to stay for a short period is given a visa on arrival. All this is based on this writer's personal experiences.

Shamir said in his video message that he had applied for the renewal of his tourist visa two months in advance – plenty of time to obtain the clearance to enter the US. And he is not exactly unknown – the man has a string of achievements to his name that would stand up well in any international gathering of tech celebrities.

The reason for his travel was to share information at a technical conference – and the US claims to be a country that is proud of its technology and research industries.

The Cryptographers' Panel at RSAC 2019. Shamir's message starts at about the eight-minute mark.

But in recent times, a number of scientists and researchers have been blocked from entering the US. Another member of the Cryptographers' Panel, Shafi Goldwasser, director of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, told the conference that Shamir was not the only one who had been unable to obtain a visa in order to attend RSAC.

She said his case stood out because of his prominence in the field of cryptography, but there were others, some even from the same institute where Shamir works, who had been unable to secure US visas to attend the conference.

Encryption has become something of a dirty word in the West these days. Cryptography experts appear to be regarded with suspicion and spies from various countries, the Five Eyes nations prominent among them, want to know what everybody else is communicating - and raise the eternal bogeys of child abuse and terrorism to justify their demands. This has manifested itself in the shape of draconian laws in both the UK and Australia.

Shamir mentioned during his message that he had intended to share some unpublished findings about the security of AES — the Advanced Encryption Standard, also known by its original name Rijndael, which is a specification for the encryption of electronic data established by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2001 — at the conference.

"... but since the US Government is not allowing me to be there with you, I'll have to break the news at some other time and place," he said.

No country that prevents intellectuals like him from sharing information that could benefit an entire industry can call itself brave and free. Shame on the US of A.


26-27 February 2020 | Hilton Brisbane

Connecting the region’s leading data analytics professionals to drive and inspire your future strategy

Leading the data analytics division has never been easy, but now the challenge is on to remain ahead of the competition and reap the massive rewards as a strategic executive.

Do you want to leverage data governance as an enabler?Are you working at driving AI/ML implementation?

Want to stay abreast of data privacy and AI ethics requirements? Are you working hard to push predictive analytics to the limits?

With so much to keep on top of in such a rapidly changing technology space, collaboration is key to success. You don't need to struggle alone, network and share your struggles as well as your tips for success at CDAO Brisbane.

Discover how your peers have tackled the very same issues you face daily. Network with over 140 of your peers and hear from the leading professionals in your industry. Leverage this community of data and analytics enthusiasts to advance your strategy to the next level.

Download the Agenda to find out more


Sam Varghese

website statistics

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.



Recent Comments