An executive at FireEye, Inc. responded Friday morning to pushback surrounding the cybersecurity company’s decision to invite former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be the keynote speaker at their 2019 Cyber Defense Summit.
“I’m probably asking for it by responding, but context is important. I’m not defending the decision or how we communicated it. Any individual in the political realm can serve as a lightening rod in our society today,” Wes Simons, Vice President of Sales, Global Services and Intelligence at FireEye, responded on LinkedIn Saturday.
Clinton’s keynote address had been announced Thursday in posts on the company’s various social media accounts.
We are pleased to announce that Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be a featured keynote at our #FireEyeSummit in October! Secretary Clinton will engage in an intimate Q&A keynote discussion with Kevin Mandia.
— FireEye (@FireEye) May 30, 2019
“We are pleased to announce that Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be a featured keynote at our #FireEyeSummit in October!” the announcement read. “Secretary Clinton will engage in an intimate Q&A keynote discussion with [CEO] Kevin Mandia.”
Many of these responses cited to Clinton finding herself at the center of a major cybersecurity controversy in 2016 for housing official State Department communications — many of them containing classified information — on an unsecured private server during her time as secretary.
The server was later wiped by Clinton’s staff upon congressional subpoena of the communications.
Tammy Moskites, the Managing Director and Senior Security Executive at Accenture, was one public figure to respond, decrying FireEye for choosing Clinton on LinkedIn and prompting Simons’ public explanation.
“Who thought of security and decided to have her as their keynote? @FireEye, Inc. You got the publicity from the choice of speaker – but not the kind you would want from the security community,” Moskites wrote.
In his response, Simons attempted to explain the company’s thought process in giving Clinton the slot.
He also said the company’s decision was not politically motivated as FireEye has on numerous occasions hosted former secretaries of state and given speaking opportunities to cybersecurity attack victims.
“FireEye has a history of hosting past Secretary of State speakers (i.e. last year was Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell in the past, etc.). We’ve also hosted many individuals that have been involved in or a victim of cyber attacks in the past (i.e Frank Blake from Home Depot last year),” Simons wrote.
Simons proceeded to add that it is his belief that the question-and-answer format will provide for hard questions and insightful dialogue, rather than simply accepting prepared talking points from Clinton.
“When looking at the event through those two lens, having her do a Q&A (she is not speaking with prepared remarks) with our CEO seems a reasonable approach,” Simons continued. “Unfortunately, in today’s politically charged culture, the polarizing political lens seems to be the most prominent.”
The executive was, however, particular in mentioning that his provision of context was neither a showing of approval or disapproval of the choice.
“Again, not agreeing or disagreeing with comments here as everyone is entitled to their opinion, but wanted to give a little more background.”
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