SAN FRANCISCO — In a surprise opening session at RSA 2019, cryptographer Adi Shamir, known as “the S in RSA” as one of the conference’s co-founders, appeared in a video recorded in Israel to decry the visa issues he faced.

“I applied for a renewal of my [U.S.] tourist visa more than two months ago, since then I haven’t heard anything. Not a yes, or a no, or a maybe.”

Shamir went on to say, “I’m a full member of the U.S. Academy of Science, a full member of the British Royal Society, a full member of the French Academy of Science. I’m a member of the Israel Academy of Science. I have received the Turing Prize, the Japan Prize, the Israel Prize, and numerous other prizes. If someone like me cannot get a visa to enter the U.S. to give a keynote at the major conference in his field, and since others are having similar problems, perhaps it’s time we rethink the question of how, and especially where, we organize our major scientific conferences.”

Another panelist on the RSA Conference Cryptographers’ Panel, Shafi Goldwasser of the University of California at Berkeley, said “There are other researchers who haven’t got a visa and there is no word of any progress. It’s unclear who is in charge.” A ripple of uneasy laughter was heard throughout the 1,000-plus audience.

Reaction to Shamir’s exclusion from the event was shared on Twitter by other RSA attendees.

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