FCC Chairman cancels trade show appearance after 'multiple' death threats

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s visit to the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next week was canceled Thursday after he received death threats. When CES took Pai’s name off the schedule Thursday Ars Technica reported that the reason for the cancellation was unknown. Later in the day, Recode reported that two agency sources indicated the cancellation was the result of death threats:

In this case, the exact nature of the threat, made in advance of Pai’s fireside chat at the 2018 International CES, isn’t clear. A spokesman for Pai at the FCC only said Thursday: “We do not comment on security measures or concerns.”

But sources at the agency said that federal law enforcement had intervened in the matter, and other FCC offices are expected to be briefed on the matter. The FBI did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment…

For months, Pai has been hounded by his critics, who view his vote to repeal net neutrality rules as tantamount to destroying the internet. The FCC chairman has lamented that he and his family have been mocked, attacked and threatened, in public as well as on Twitter, where Pai himself is active.

Sources told Digital Music News that there were numerous threats against Pai connected to his Vegas appearance and that responding to those threats on the assumption they could be real would have been a major security operation:

According to a pair of sources on Capitol Hill, Pai’s security detail is now ‘untenable’ with ‘multiple, unsubstantiated death threats’ linked specifically to the Vegas itinerary.  One source indicated that such threats are ‘routine for presidents and vice presidents’ but highly unusual for heads of government agencies like the FCC.

“There’s not the budget for staffing [CES] from threats of that level,” the second source relayed, noting that Pai’s security detail is ill-equipped to protect against snipers, attackers, bombs, gas attacks, vehicular blockades, and other assassination attempts.  The Consumer Electronics Show is one of the largest conferences in the world, with hundreds of thousands crowding the city.

“Basically if these threats are credible, you need armored vehicles — and I mean plural — not to mention area sweeps, aerial support, and Secret Service directly manning the commissioner at all times,” one of the sources relayed.

Last month the FCC vote to repeal net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration was delayed by a bomb threat. Pai was in the midst of discussing the vote when he was handed a note saying the room needed to be cleared. Police then asked everyone to leave everything and exit the room. Bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in and, fortunately, nothing was found. The repeal vote took place a few minutes after the session resumed.