Must IETF, ICANN stop meeting in the U.S.?

S.S. St.LouisWith Trump’s “extreme vetting” extending to Pakistan and others, nearly all U.S. institutions with a global reach will be cut off from some members. Internet Society Board Member Walid Al-Saqaf, from Yemen, can’t attend the IETF meeting next month in Chicago. Board Member Alice Munyua from Kenya may also have to skip the event. “There is a high threat from terrorism in Kenya,” the British government reports. Kenyans likely will require extreme vetting. ICANN board member Kaveh Ranjbar, born in Iran, has also been appointed to the IETF Administrative Oversight Committee. Update: Keveh posted that he has been blocked from attending an ICANN Board event in Los Angeles despite having a current U.S. visa and a Dutch passport. Update 2 Jari Arkko, IETF Chair, just blogged that the IETF is reviewing plans for future meetings in the United States. Below

From now on, people from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and others will face, per Trump, “Extreme vetting. It’s going to be very hard to come in. You’re going to see. You’re going to see. We’re going to have extreme vetting in all cases. And I mean extreme. And we’re not letting people in if we think there’s even a little chance of some problem.” Anyone from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan are blocked. New reports suggest the extreme vetting will apply to anyone with ties to countries with what he calls a terrorism problem. Egypt, Nigeria, and Mali face active insurgencies resulting in many casualties. So does India, both in Kashmir and West Bengal.  Update: Jari Arkko of IETF blogged, “We are already reviewing what to do as far as location for the next open North American meeting slot.”

IETF has a “mandatory” requirement to include in site selection whether “Travel barriers to entry, e.g. visa requirements that can limit participation, are acceptable.”

I doubt they will consider moving the March meeting from Chicago but the U.S. is under consideration for future meetings. There is an active discussion on the mailing list. It’s open, so anyone can read the comments and weigh in. If you do, be thoughtful and stay on topic. The IETF list is not the place to argue the merits of the Trump actions. What the IETF should do about the difficulties of members attending is pertinent. Jari Arkko 

Although not automatically excluded, “extreme vetting” and quite possibly exclusion will affect Cherine Chalaby, a citizen of Egypt on the ICANN board. Fellow Board member Khaled Koubaa is Tunisian and might be allowed to enter the U.S. He has worked actively with Internet organizations across the Arab world, including some in the excluded countries. That’s almost certain to raise issues if he wants to enter America. 

The violence in Israel and Palestine has taken thousands of lives in recent years, which would place the territory on any list of where “terrorism” is significant. The Internet Society has a strong chapter in Palestine, whose members will have difficulty coming to events in the U.S. 


I believe I serve my readers best by simply reporting the facts, as I’m trying to do here. It’s also more persuasive. However, readers should know the bias of a reporter. I’m Jewish, a grandson of immigrants. When I was young, my mother told me of the voyage of the Saint Louis (pictured,) to help me understand what I might face in life. She also told me about Father Coughlin, a strong supporter of America’s First. In the event, I’ve been lucky. As far as I know, antisemitism hasn’t had a big effect on my life.


Kevah Ranjbar posted on Facebook “Ok, so here is the situation: I was supposed to land at LAX right now, but instead, I am in Amsterdam. As one of 20 ICANN Board members, I was supposed to join the ICANN board workshop in LA. I have both Iranian and Dutch nationalities and passports and I even have a multiple entry US visa in my Dutch passport but apparently none of that matters! Being born in Tehran means that at least for the next 90 days, I can’t get into the US. This also means I will miss Chicago IETF, where I am being officially appointed to the IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC). Of course I will join all relevant meetings remotely, but that is beyond the point. At the end, I love the Internet and will do everything in my power to make sure things run smoothly, decisions are made sanely and we have a clear and open path to an innovative and reliable Internet. That’s why being objective and trying to keep it non-personal is a challenge. I will happily join my remote meetings and believe the most important thing is to focus on the issues related to our business, Internet. I would also like to use this opportunity to thank all of my friends and colleagues who wrote to me or called and offered help, support and comfort. Thank you all.”

From the IETF 

We believe that Internet protocols develop best when people of many backgrounds can offer their contributions, and we are negatively impacted by policies that prevent such collaboration.
IETF meeting venues are always reviewed for potential impact on attendance by participants from different countries. Our next meeting is planned for Chicago, and we believe it is too late to change that venue. We recognize, however, that we may have to review our other planned meeting locations when the situation becomes clearer. We are already reviewing what to do as far as location for the next open North American meeting slot.
Jari Arkko, IETF Chair Leslie Daigle, IAOC Chair Andrew Sullivan, IAB Chair
The response, especially from the technical community, has been strong. 44 Nobel Laureates have signed the petition at So have all the Fields Medelists since 1990, including Elon Lindenstrauss of the Hebrew University and Iranian-American Maryam Mirzakhani of Stanford. 9,000 U.S. faculty have also signed. The number is rising almost hourly. 

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