News From Terre Haute, Indiana


July 19, 2008

At least one guy at Purdue security summit was paying attention

TERRE HAUTE — Purdue computer science professor Eugene Spafford had the best line about media coverage of Barack Obama’s extensive national security seminar in West Lafayette last week:

“Good thing Angelina Jolie gave birth earlier in the week or the summit wouldn’t have even made the press.”

“Spaf,” as he is known by his students, colleagues, associates and fellow experts in international cyber security, is always good for a humorous, big-picture observation that lasers in on the truth.

As director of Purdue’s CERIAS program — the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security — he has served on numerous national research teams, testified before Congress and advised presidents. His name is synonymous around the world with cyber security.

Who better to summon to the invitation-only Obama security summit at Purdue. Ah, but no one thought to invite Spaf until the night before.

“The press was told that Purdue was chosen because of the leading role our researchers have in various areas of public safety and national security — including the leading program in cyber security …” Spaf wrote on his long blog entry about the summit ( “I found it rather ironic that security would be given as the reason … and yet those of us most involved with those security centers had not been told about the summit or given invitations.”

A few e-mails about this irony apparently woke up the proper people. Tuesday night Spaf was invited to join about 500 other folks the next day in the Purdue Memorial Union to listen to panel discussions on three big security threats — nuclear weapons, bioterrorism and cyber manipulation.

His richly informed reactions to the first two panels are useful reading. For example, a financial element mentioned during the nuclear panel particularly caught Spaf’s attention:

“[T]he one figure that stood out was that we could fully fund the [Sam] Nunn-[Richard] Lugar initiative and some other plans to secure loose nuclear materials by spending the equivalent of 1 month of what we now spend in Iraq over the next 4 years around the world … One other number given is that currently less than 1/4 of 1% of the defense budget is spent on containing nuclear materials, despite it being a declared priority of President Bush …”

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    March 12, 2010