The effort by the left to de-platform conservative speakers continues. This time it is Rep. Will Hurd, former CIA officer, and cybersecurity expert, who has been disinvited to be a keynote speaker at a cybersecurity conference. The reason? He’s a pro-life Republican politician. No, really.
This slight doesn’t make any sense at all except to highlight the fact that there is no tolerance from the pro-abortion left for pro-life politicians. What does a pro-life position have to do with cybersecurity? The answer is absolutely nothing.
Black Hat USA will host a conference August 3-8 in Las Vegas. Black Hat, “the world’s leading producer of information security events” according to their press release, announced on June 13 that Rep. Will Hurd was scheduled as a keynote speaker Wednesday, August 7.
Today, Black Hat, the world’s leading producer of information security events, announces that Will Hurd, U.S. Representative and Former CIA Officer, known for his work in pushing for cybersecurity initiatives in Congress, will Keynote Black Hat USA 2019. During his time in public service, Hurd has emphasized the importance of information security and technology – he has put forth specific initiatives related to education, retention, and support to ensure the longevity and safety of the U.S. government. Hurd will take the Keynote stage at 9 AM on Wednesday, August 7 in the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Hurd is currently a member of the 23rd District of Texas in Congress – he is the first member to serve this district for three consecutive terms in a decade. Similar to the rest of his political career, Hurd has made technology his priority moving into 2019, listing artificial intelligence, helping federal agencies address critical technology issues, and a new cybersecurity scholarship program as his to-do’s to help modernize and secure the government. His hope is to see more bipartisan support in 2019 for major issues like cybersecurity and transportation.
Hurd has specifically put a focus on digital hygiene – calling out the need for an update to the Department of Veterans Affairs technologies. And he’s pushed to create a national plan on the use of AI-based technologies, as well as launch the Cyber National Guard initiative that would fund students to study cybersecurity and enter the federal government.
The press release went on to describe Hurd’s work as an undercover CIA officer in the Middle East and South Asia where he collected intelligence for America’s national security agenda. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Black Hat hosts high profile global events that strive to “bring together the best minds in the industry.” Except, apparently, pro-life cybersecurity experts.
Zack Whittaker, a security editor for Tech Crunch (and CBS alum, according to his Twitter profile) posted a tweet showing Hurd’s voting record calling it “a terrible voting record on women’s rights.” Whittaker did, however, acknowledge that Will Hurd is one of the few lawmakers who “get” cybersecurity.
Rep. Will Hurd to keynote Black Hat later this year. He's one of only a few lawmakers who gets cyber, but he has a terrible voting record on women's rights. https://t.co/Q2smmGvtt8 pic.twitter.com/o1t8ozHjRl
— Zack Whittaker (@zackwhittaker) June 13, 2019
Whittaker wrote online that the pro-abortion attendees were clutching their pearls and were uncomfortable at the thought of being in the same room as a pro-life African-American man, or something. Most of the people he references, conveniently, asked to remain anonymous.
But several people we’ve spoken to have described their unease that Black Hat organizers have asked Hurd, a self-described pro-life lawmaker, given his consistent opposition to bills supporting women’s rights.
An analysis of Hurd’s voting record shows he supports bills promoting women’s rights only two percent of the time. He has voted against a bill that would financially support women in STEM fields, voted in favor of allowing states to restrict access and coverage to abortions, and voted to defund Planned Parenthood.
Many of those we spoke to asked to be kept anonymous amid worries of retaliation or personal attacks. One person who we asked for permission to quote said Hurd’s voting record was “simply awful” for women’s rights
At first, Black Hat defended their decision to ask Hurd to be a keynote speaker.
“Hurd has a strong background in computer science and information security and has served as an advocate for specific cybersecurity initiatives in Congress,” adding that he will offer a “unique perspective” at the conference.
But, that wasn’t good enough for the Twitter mob. By Friday Black Hat caved. They cited an error in judgement. The company “misjudged the separation of technology and politics.”
“Black Hat has chosen to remove U.S. Representative Will Hurd as our 2019 Black Hat USA Keynote. We misjudged the separation of technology and politics,” Black Hat told Tech Crunch. “We will continue to focus on technology and research, however we recognize that Black Hat USA is not the appropriate platform for the polarizing political debate resulting from our choice of speaker,”
Black Hat vowed that the conference is “still fully dedicated to providing an inclusive environment and apologize that this decision did not reflect that sentiment.”
This lame excuse – a “misjudgment” of the intersection of technology and politics – is rich. Whittaker acknowledges that “senior government figures” have been keynote speakers in the past. Then he called abortion “a human right.” Unless that human is unborn, I guess.
Although previous keynote speakers have included senior government figures, this is the first time Black Hat has confirmed a lawmaker to keynote the conference.
Although abortion rights and cybersecurity may seem like unrelated topics, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate social issues from technology and gatherings. It’s also valid for attendees to express concern that the keynote speaker at a professional security conference opposes what many will consider a human right.
Something that Whittaker failed to reference, though, is the founder of Black Hat’s support for Hillary Clinton in 2016 as she ran for president. He hosted a fundraiser for her during a hacker conference in Las Vegas. She’s the acceptable kind of politician, you see. It’s just really all too much, even by 2019 standards.
Will Hurd is one of the few experts that have both real life, in-field experience in intelligence gathering and also experience as a lawmaker. Friday, Black Hat told Gizmodo that the conference wasn’t a place for “polarizing political debate”. Again, that’s rich considering that in 2016 the conference literally chose a presidential candidate to support and the founder of the conference held a fundraiser for her.
But on Friday, Black Hat said it had “misjudged the separation of technology and politics.” In a statement to Gizmodo, an event spokesperson said that the conference would “continue to focus on technology and research,” but that it also recognizes that Black Hat “is not the appropriate platform for the polarizing political debate resulting from our choice of speaker.”
Maybe Black Hat, Inc. thinks that all people interested in cybersecurity issues are pro-abortion. Most of all it insults the participants who actually live in the real world and are mature enough to be in the same room as someone who holds a different position on an important social issue. They will be denied valuable information that Will Hurd is uniquely capable of delivering. Who knew there is a litmus test to speak at a cybersecurity conference?