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Feedback from Yesterday's DEF CON post

Yesterday, I wrote about the controversy surrounding DEF CON 21 and the organizers' suggestion that those working for such government agencies as the NSA sit this one out. I didn't offer an opinion on whether it was the right or wrong move, but captured both sides of the argument and asked readers for feedback. And, when tweeting the post, I argued that while some see this as drama, I saw it as an opportunity for the security community to do things better.

The most detailed feedback came from Chris Hoff. I've known him for a long time and value his opinions. He took issue with what he saw as me lumping the entire security community in with the DEF CON organizers. The decision to encourage NSA types to stay away wasn't something "we" made, he said. It was a decision they, the event planners, made.


Another respected voice in the industry, Robert David Graham, noted that there's a difference between "Feds" and those encouraged not to attend. He also noted that nobody had been banned as I suggested:

Um, I don't think you parsed correctly what the D. Tangent wrote. Nobody is being banned.


also, anybody working for the government coming on their own dime is welcome.


On LinkedIn, Michael Guadagno, a national counterespionage specialist, offered this:


From what we read days ago, it was suggested by one the event organizers the decision may have been made to evade trouble within the spectators. There are no taking sides here and we feel at this point it's a good decision, under the present circumstances. There are good people that attend these events and they all are not on the dark side. Please don't be fooled, no matter what profession or spectator groups attending, in real life there will be an overzealous element ever present. Just our open minded thoughts on this, thank you. 


A few responses from me:


--My goal with yesterday's post was to initiate more discussion, not opine on whether DEF CON's decision was right or wrong.


--I noted in the opening that the "Feds" were encouraged not to come. Further down, I let slip the word "banned." To be clear, no one has been banned.


--When I say "we" or "community" I'm talking about everyone in the security industry -- which, as Hoff noted, includes many communities.


--Though this year's move was made by DEF CON organizers and not the community at large, my suggestion was that all of us could learn something from the fallout. Many in the community are involved in the planning of other conferences, and a thorough analysis of DEF CON's decision and the resulting lessons could be applied when planning other events. That's what I meant when I said we could use this to do better going forward. 


It could be that we end up learning nothing and stumble along to the next drama. As Hoff also noted, "The 'community's' biggest problem (is that) we have immediate anger issues and long-term memory problems."


I certainly can't argue with that, Mr. Hoff.


Thanks to everyone for the feedback. Keep it coming.


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