Ajit Pai, chairman of US regulator Federal Communications Commission (FCC), was forced to abruptly cancel his appearance at CES 2018 in Las Vegas after receiving death threats, it was revealed.
Two government sources told technology publication Digital Music News Pai (pictured) is having trouble leaving Washington DC, with his security detail now “untenable” due to “multiple, unsubstantiated death threats” linked to his Las Vegas visit.
Pai scrapped plans to appear on a panel alongside Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen this week, less than seven days before the show is scheduled to kick off. The FCC did not comment on the withdrawal, but stated it looked forward to its “next opportunity to host a technology policy discussion with him before a public audience”.
At the time of writing, the FCC will still be represented at this year’s CES by Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn and Republican commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr.
Snipers, bombs, gas attacks
Pai had reportedly attended CES for the past five years and the abrupt nature in which he cancelled his appearance raised questions.
According to the sources, the threats received by Pai are “routine for presidents and vice presidents but highly unusual for heads of government agencies like the FCC”. One of the sources added there was not enough budget for staffing for threats at such a level.
Specifically, Pai’s security would be ill equipped to deal with snipers, attackers, bombs, gas attacks, vehicle blockades and other assassination attempts.
An unrelated gun attack in Las Vegas in October 2017 has also no doubt heightened security concerns at this year’s CES show.
Pai had been in the firing line following the repeal of net neutrality rules in the US, which he spearheaded at the end of 2017. While making a speech during a vote on the issue in the December, Pai was forced to leave the stage following an alleged bomb threat.
Protesters have also reportedly been present at Pai’s Virgina residence, and he faced threats and severe criticism on Twitter over the net neutrality issue.