Cancelled academic says conference partner knew idea was never formally proposed
Cybersecurity panel-The Australian government’s peak cybersecurity agency claimed two speakers were cancelled from the country’s premiere cybersecurity conference because it was suggested they would host a panel with the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, but the Guardian has been told the idea was never formally proposed.
The Guardian reported earlier this month that the former US National Security Agency executive-turned-whistleblower Thomas Drake, along with the Melbourne university academic Dr Suelette Dreyfus, were kicked off the conference agenda in what Drake described as an “Orwellian” move by conference partner the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC).
The pair were told their speeches were “incongruent” with the conference, and they said at the time they believed it was because their speeches were related to whistleblowing. A third speaker also claimed he was pressured to edit his speech because it was “biased” against the government’s anti-encryption laws.
ACSC declined to comment at the time, but in Senate estimates on Thursday, the head of the centre, Rachel Noble, said she made the decision to cancel the speakers.
“The advice I made the decision on was a proposal for Dr Dreyfus and Mr Drake to [via video conference] have a panel with Edward Snowden. That was the first proposal,” she said.
“At that point my judgement was based on, I guess, the reputation of all of those speakers – that they are known public advocates for unauthorised disclosures or the leaking of classified information outside of legitimate or lawful whistleblowing schemes.”
Snowden leaked documents related to the NSA’s spying program to the Guardian in 2013, and has been based in Russia ever since.
Noble said that the presentations “weren’t consistent” with a cybersecurity conference, and that there was a risk those speakers would “express views that are inconsistent with Australian government laws, and our processes and our values.”
Dreyfus said the suggested talk was merely a thought bubble in the initial stages of conference planning.