back to article US red-tape will drain boffins' brains into China, says crypto-guru Shamir

Cryptographer Adi Shamir – the "S" in the RSA encryption algorithm – says "heavy-handed" bureaucracy has prevented him from attending today's NSA-backed Cryptologic History Symposium. And he warned other scientists will be put off from visiting America if they face a similar struggle, which will effectively drive experts to …

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Time for a change

It's pretty clear that in order to attract the best and brightest minds from around the world these conferences and symposiums will need to be scheduled internationally perhaps rotating through a list of science friendly countries. I know I'd be more likely to attend a conference in Grand Cayman than one in Maryland, not that I'm likely to be invited.

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Pint

Re: the Grand Canyon doesn't have

yummy crabcakes! That's half the point of visiting Maryland, anyway.

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Grand Cayman on the other hand

That does have really nice crab cakes.

Also lots more fresh and really nice seafood, on account of it being a small Caribbean island.

- Oddly, Hell is located there. It wasn't as fiery as advertised, and there was a distinct lack of brimstone. Hell does however have a post office and a petrol station.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Time for a change

Why not put the cat amongst the pigeons? Organise one in Russia or Beijing. Let's see how many seconds it takes after announcement to see changes in the VISA program.

I'm not that surprised, I have suspected for quite some time that there is a drive to make smart people leave the US so it makes sense to complete that program by not letting any other smart people in...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Time for a change

There are already problems for Americans when there are conferences in China (not sure about Russia). This years IAC conference was in Beijing and any american scientist working on a government funded program was forbidden from attending.

Basically, the rest of the world is sick of American bureaucracy and tries to avoid working with US scientists unless they happen to be footing the bill. It's just not worth the hassles!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Organise one in Russia or Beijing

Have you ever applied for a Russian or Chinese visa? For my last Russian one I had to provide a list of all countries I had visited each year in the last 10 years (apparently UK-ians get special treatment cf the rest of Europe) ... I had to assemble the list by trawling through old holiday photos and ancient emails; the Chinese one wasn't quite that tortuous but still required fairly pointless info. Admittedly, though, once I paid the excessive fees they both turned it around fairly quickly; and pointless bureaucracy is the sort of thing you expect from such states anyway.

I have no particular desire to go conferences in either of them again, and I suspect avoiding such will not be a career breaker. Likewise, I've seen/found no particular need to visit the US recently either.

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Re: Grand Cayman on the other hand

"- Oddly, Hell is located there. It wasn't as fiery as advertised, and there was a distinct lack of brimstone. Hell does however have a post office and a petrol station."

Been there, Done that. Lovely place to visit.

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Re: Organise one in Russia - tit for tat

Russia runs a strict tit-for-tat visa system: it makes you follow the same process that a Russian has to follow to visit your country. Having just travelled to the UK, yes, the UKBA requires visa applicants to provide a list of all the countries visited in the last ten years (in an online box which can only accept about 250 characters).

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Re: Grand Cayman on the other hand

Um, you are not a fan of geography, then? Maryland sits athwart (ow!) The Chesapeake Bay, which in turn is glued to the Atlantic Ocean.

The crab is plentiful and fresh. Indeed, during my stay there the problem was in finding food *without* some sort of crabby content. Even the crisps were crab flavored (and that is the only instance I can think of that involved in-crab-season fake crabbery).

Restaurants are brimming with fresh crab. Boats ride the waves full of crab. The whole situation is in danger of backing into a sketch about highwaymen who provide an over abundance of not Lupins but crab.

Interestingly off-topic: The bay is one place where an Englishman can be left totally gobsmacked should he run into an islander. The islanders speak with Norfolk (as in Naarch) accents. Heya gorra loight, boy?

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Re: Time for a change

Hollow threat, since then Americans with very high level security clearances will not be able to go.

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Re: Organise one in Russia or Beijing

I've applied for Chinese ones a few times, both for personal and business travel. Application process seemed fine to me, not much different from any other countries that require a visa.

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Trollface

Waiting ... waiting ... waiting ...

Waiting for reformation of U.S. bureacratic attitudes and procedures should be considered as timely as the wait for the second coming of (insert preferred messianic entity).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Waiting ... waiting ... waiting ...

What reformation?

This is fairly recent actually. It started this year. Prior to that J1 visas could be obtained fairly with relative ease.

Once you spend in USA more than 70 days a year and especially if you have a prior history of living there USA immigration starts to pull you into the "room" every time you travel. At that point they cannot kick you out for violating the visa waiver they subject you to Gitmo style interrogation for up to 6-7 hours every time to "prove" that you are violating the terms by working in USA. So you do not have a choice - you have to get a visa.

Prior to this year, you could apply (with appropriate sponsorship) and get it in the usual terms (21 days if memory serves me right).

This year USA embassies have started to drag their heels and keep the passports for 4+ months. During those 4 months you are a prisoner in your own country - you cannot travel anywhere neither for business, nor leasure because USA has decided that it is entitled to "jail" you for the duration - they keep your passport throughout the process.

Shamir's story is not unique - I know other people who have had their travel plans for unrelated personal travel completely destroyed. End of the day they had to apply for a second passport (that causes marry hell with travel too by the way - increases your chance of being pulled over several times). It is one of those cases where you start to regret UK position on Eu compliant ID cards. Having a spare ID that is usable for travel in 1/4 of the world can be quite handy sometimes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Waiting ... waiting ... waiting ...

That would be of the reason British citizens can have two physical passports.

One for embassies to piss around with, the other to travel on.

You just have to remember which one has the appropriate visa in it when you travel!

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Re: Waiting ... waiting ... waiting ...

Isn't the visa stamp going to go in the one they have in hand when they approve you.

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Iceland maybe?

I've always thought that Iceland would be an ideal host country for US/EU based conferences - given decent accommodations and a large enough venue, I suspect they would do rather well hosting events. A good conference can generate a lot of local benefits in terms of additional spending and visitors.

Plus I've always wanted visit Iceland.

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Re: Iceland maybe?

Great idea!

They have several good venues, and they always give visitors a great welcome.

Plus volcanoes, so what's not to like?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Iceland maybe?

Plus volcanoes, so what's not to like?

Umm, I do recall a spot of bother with those. But yes, it's on my "places to visit" list, if only to race across the water in those insane buggies they have :)

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Re: Iceland maybe?

> so what's not to like?

Having to spell the name of the said volcano in you GPS?

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Re: Iceland maybe?

Well, there is that town that sort of put out a volcano in order to save the town.

http://www.centrum.is/~edda/heimaey1.html

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Re: Iceland maybe?

The next one's easy, it'll be either Hekla or Krafla (pronounced 'crappla'). Sadly neither of those are what Icelanders call 'tourist' volcanoes (a recent tourist-friendly eruption was the one at Fimmvörðuháls that heralded the eruption at Eyjafjallajökull) as it'll be ashy, large and under a glacier, thus making it difficult to pose next to for pics.

Also, flight delays from the ash fallout will be the least of your worries if you're in northwest Europe.

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I'd like to put in a plug for Canada here

Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, lots of nice places for conferences. The Banff Conference centre is especially beautiful, set in the rockies.

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Joke

Eh, think of it as an intelligence test...

So the US has ranks of excessive red-tape & paranoia?

They should make that work for them! Each Expo/show should advertise that 'only the smartest come to OUR show!'

And now, if they can't come, they just weren't smart enough...

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Shamir has history with the US Govt. About 30 years ago he (@ the Weizman institute in Israel) published a paper - a step in the development of modern crypto - that caught Uncle Sam's eye. They ordered him to recall and destroy all copies! Someone pointed out that they weren't supposed to have jurisdiction over a man living and working in Israel, but that didn't stop them!

This pre-dates the US govt's run-ins with Phil Zimmernann or Dan Bernstein.

Maybe they still view him somewhat like Manning and Snowden?

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Mushroom

Dismal

The US attracted scientists for two reasons: (1) They have the biggest number of top scientists and scientific institutions, and (2) they were perceived as very welcoming to scientists and immigrants in general. Now they killed off number (2), the example here is just one in a long list of similar incidents. In the longer term, this will also affect point number (1) -- just look at how many of the top scientists originally came from abroad.

With their rising xenophobia, the US may well kill off its greatest source of scientific and economic success.

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Re: Dismal

They just had a big boycott of a conference on the Kepler space telescope because US government rules ban anyone working for the feds collaborating with anyone in China and so all Chinese born scientists working in the US wouldn't be allowed to attend.

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Re: Dismal

"With their rising xenophobia, the US may well kill off its greatest source of scientific and economic success."

Especially given the atrocious state of the US educational systems, where most of my fellow citizens cannot even spell atrocious.

I'll not even go into US citizens horrific performance in geography, where it's bad enough that they cannot point out the UK on the globe, but are hard pressed to know *where* Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Russia, China and far too many can't even point out the US on the globe.

Of course, most can't even point out their own state on a US map...

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the ban was against Chinese citizens on NASA property

The ban was against Chinese citizens on NASA property.

Locating the conference in a NASA building meant not allowing Chinese citizens to attend.

You can still collaborate and do business with the Chinese and China.

China is too big to treat like Cuba.

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Anonymous Coward

Ignorant Americans

LOL, Ignorant Americans shooting themselves in the foot.

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Unhappy

Re: Ignorant Americans

It's not the shooting themselves (although the foot is, shall we say, not the preferred location) that I object to. It's that these xenophobic few are shooting the rest of us at the same time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ignorant Americans

LOL, Ignorant Americans shooting themselves in the foot.

Another argument for better gun laws? :)

The dirty Mac, thanks.

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Anonymous Coward

Not in the future...

... It's now. I've been avoiding the US for that very reason since 911. I'm sure others have too. The DHS staff are rude, obnoxious, and treat visitors as if we have been given the honour to set foot in their holy land. They waste your time and are incompetent. With their level of intelligence, how can anyone respect them? It's no wonder they act the way they do. I pity the poor tax payer. What a repressive regime.

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Re: Not in the future...

The sad thing is this attitude, which is by no means uncommon, is really NOT how the majority of USA citizens think it should be.

I have never had a "problem" as such with USA immigration and border control, but as an anonymous person from Europe have seen how slow and troublesome it can be. As a point of comparison when on a flight to Chile, when fellow passengers were actually being fined for failing to declare fruit & veg (in that case a bag of tea), the staff were still polite and pleasant, and no guns were pointed at the visitors during the procedure.

I really wish that the USA gov, and its representatives, could be like the majority of pleasant and helpful folk I have met in my travels in the USA.

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Pint

Re: Not in the future...

@Paul Crawford, I agree with you, Americans are very nice people, at least in my experience.

I think this story by Philip Zimbardo tries to explain how a group of people can become odd for no obvious reasons.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piQQsHtPrvc&list=PLVhS7OMlNhVtFawEDF-1ON4V5xkm04em7

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Boffin

Re: Not in the future...

As a septuagenarian citizen of the US, I'm prompted to both observe, and caution, that this nation finds itself embroiled in a political civil war. Just witness the recent threat of economic destruction at the hands of a mad minority.

Thus, some large faction of US citizens feel threatened by all and sundry from outside our borders, and any attempt to rein in our security apparatus will be opposed. Elected politicians representing the more sane half of the country are powerless in the face of fierce opposition which erupts at any attempt to curb the security agency excesses. Since a politician's first duty is survival in office, sane moderation suffers.

Let's also consider those few who've tried to blow the whistle on US excesses committed in the name of security. The lack of legislative response nationwide to those revelations, and the growing knowledge that US legislators have not only been kept in the dark by the US "alphabet" agencies but, as demonstrated by recent testimony, when Congress asks questions they may get half-truths and lies in answer, has resulted in the whistle-blowers becoming hunted fugitives, and US government employees and information media reporters coming under an invisible net of secret surveillance.

Thus it is no surprise to this old man that no matter your credentials, a bureaucratic drizzle of suspicion, screening, and monitoring will greet your desire to enter and move about the US. And by the way ... do not bring personal electronic devices with you! No one, not even returning US citizens, are immune from having them seized and searched at the border.

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Re: Not in the future...

"The DHS staff are rude, obnoxious, and treat visitors as if we have been given the honour to set foot in their holy land."

Never fear, you are not alone.

I'm a US citizen. Born, raised, left the country because of some war in Afghanistan that I was, erm, invited to by the US Government.

OK, to make not too fine a point of it, I was with US CENTCOM.

Came home after a year on leave, from a secure US Air Force base, only to pay for the honor of returning to the land of my birth and allegiance by being forced to receive a mandatory TSSA administered scrotum squeeze home.

I stopped coming home on leave.

To judge from our performance since I've retired from the military and returned home to stay, I decided to live in the wrong place!

Should have retired to New Zealand, as I was seriously considering doing.

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Re: Not in the future...

"As a septuagenarian citizen of the US, I'm prompted to both observe, and caution, that this nation finds itself embroiled in a political civil war."

This pentagenarian US citizen agrees!

Beware the ultra-nationalist, for their path is the path to fascism. That annoyingly loud minority seeks to wrest the political control in this once great nation into their own control and makes no bones about making threats to any who stand in their way.

"The lack of legislative response nationwide to those revelations..."

Erm, there is less than no evidence to support ignorance on the part of the legislature, when you actually examine their words. It seems to be more a willful ignorance, ignoring that which they are well aware of, as the lack of objection to recent revelations by Snowden clearly display.

Remember, each house of our Congress has their own SCIF and can as easily see the documents Snowden revealed as Snowden could, as well as a great deal more.

As one who met Snowden in person when he was responding to an event that literally emptied the NSA out of all system administrators, the 2008 Cyberattack on the US, I'll just call the prima donna where she lies.

The only thing he proved is complicity of the political leadership of the US in its intelligence programs.

Just as Manning only managed to prove something well known to anyone who knows diplomats personally, diplomats don't respect one another.

Though, Manning also proved that if one has press credentials and walks up to an enemy combatant with an RPG, hanging with other combatants with machineguns that had recently engaged US forces, one is most assuredly not protected against supportive fire.

I'd not be surprised if some middle manager in the process thought he was doing the nation a favor by removing someone who might have said something bad about the NSA programs, not realizing in their unplumbed depths of ignorance on the subject of cryptography, who precisely they were denying access by heel dragging.

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Re: Not in the future...

>some large faction of US citizens feel threatened by all and sundry from outside our borders,

Well to be fair they did come out of it rather badly last time.

Remember next time a bunch of white people turn up - kill them all. Don't teach them how to grow maize

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Flame

Pot, meet Kettle

Excuse me? The US visa system discourages travel? How about the UK's exorbitant Air Passenger Duty?

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Re: Pot, meet Kettle

At least they don't charge this for transit passengers. The US doesn't do transit so you have to have a $131 VISA to change planes - and need to be permitted through US immigration.

And since a lot of S America is out of range without refueling in the US this means they have effectively a blockade of an entire continent.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pot, meet Kettle

Yes it does discourage travel, there's many stories of people being locked in a prison and deported for pretty much nothing.

The winners in this are the Canadian airlines - they market their country as a friendly alternative to transiting in the US.

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Anonymous Coward

China's hardly better

Somehow I don't think it will drive people to China. The Chinese visa system is a nightmare, with frequently changing rules and arbitrary differences between which embassy/consulate you apply from.

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Of Phantom Enemies and Closet Friends is there no Difference in a Conflicted Drone State

"The heavy handed visa bureaucracy you have created seems to be collapsing under its own weight," Shamir wrote of Uncle Sam's administration. "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."

How very odd. Whatever was Shamir thinking of himself whenever he shared those revealing thoughts?

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Big Brother

Top Crytographer "admits" "There are terrorists int the NSA membership."

Give me 6 lines from an honest man (or even one with a dry sense of humour)....

That sound you hear in the background is Osama Bin Laden ROFLAO.

He wanted to destroy peace and freedom in the West.

He succeeded.

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Re: Top Crytographer "admits" "There are terrorists int the NSA membership."

SS-Sturmbannführer Werner von Braun?

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Driven to China

FTFA :- "will effectively drive experts to ... China"

So from being the most reviled country in the world (Tiananmen Sq etc) China has suddenly become cuddly? Irrespective of the fuss made about Tiananmen Sq by the Western media at the time, what I've heard is that the Chinese hate foreigners (eg www.chinese-traditions-and-culture.com/foreigners-in-China.html).

That, and stories of hotels where the loos are holes in a jetty overhanging a river or lake.

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Re: Driven to China

That's strange.

I found them to be very welcoming and friendly in both cities I visited (Beijing and Guangzhou). The toilets were similar to Western standards.

Guess I was just lucky.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Driven to China

The toilets were similar to Western standards.

Guess I was just lucky.

Or not near a river or lake?

Joking aside, I have spent quite some time in Asia, and if people sense you are aware you're a guest, respect their culture and don't try to impose your view on their society they will be very forthcoming and helpful.

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Re: Driven to China

The difference between a tourist hotel and tourist district restaurants and the hotels and restaurants in regular areas dominated by local people.

So just hold the conference in a tourist area.

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fpx

It's Not The Laws, It's Their Interpretation

I would venture a guess that there is no law against Adi Shamir attending a conference.

The US, just like any other country, reserve the right to control their borders and to only admit those that they approve of. Some countries make it easier to get in (e.g., by allowing visa-free travel, if ), and for most westerners, getting into the US is as easy as it gets. But no country has to let you in, and they don't have to give a reason for refusing your entry.

The most you can do is to complain to your government. So if, for example, the US decided to refuse entry to Israeli citizens, there would be nothing you can do, but eventually Israel might decide to refuse entry to US citizens.

So the problem here is the intransparency. We don't know why it took so long to issue a visa, and it would be interesting to find out. Certainly the US is having a history of refusing entry to some of its outspoken critics. But then, the first amendment does not apply to foreigners and certainly not on foreign soil.

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