Dateline NBC Producer Michelle Madigan was publicly outed at the Defcon security conference in Las Vegas Friday after show organizers were tipped off that she was trying to film show attendees with a hidden camera.
Madigan ran from the show after organizers publicly threatened to escort her from the event at the beginning of a 4 p.m. conference session by noted hacker HD Moore. "She literally kicked the door open," said "Priest," a show official who declined to be identified. "She made the mistake of running. Had she taken it like an adult, she would have been treated with kid gloves, treated with respect."
Instead she left as Defcon organizer "Dark Tangent" (Jeff Moss) taunted her from the stage.
"It came to our attention that a reporter might be here with a hidden pinhole camera," Moss told the crowd. He said that he had two options: to let her corner some 13-year-old and get him to admit to hacking, or to escort her away.
Amidst clapping and cries of "burn the witch," from the crowd, Madigan left the building.
The Dateline NBC producer continued out to a nearby parking lot, surrounded by a small crowd of show attendees and media, talking briefly on her mobile phone and not saying anything to the gathering crowd.
Madigan was apparently already aware that her cover had been blown.
Show organizers had been warning attendees all day of Madigan's presence and had repeatedly asked her if she would register as press, Priest said.
And another show volunteer, who declined to be identified, said she had even admitted that she was videotaping the conference, telling him, "I have to go into the bathroom and put on my hidden camera," he said.
Cameras of any kind are a strict no-no at the show, which bills itself as a gathering for hackers, both legitimate, and not-so-legitimate, and takes special steps to ensure the privacy of its attendees. The show keeps no list of attendees, except for press and speakers, and there's only one way to get in the door: paying $100 cash.
Show organizers believe that Madigan had been looking to talk to hackers and federal agents, possibly with the intention of drawing attention to the fact that federal agents participate in a show whose attendees are known to skirt the law. "My guess is that she wanted a splash piece along the lines of, 'We have a whole bunch of people who are criminals. We have federal agents here as well,'" Priest said.
Priest, who would only say that he worked in the "government" sector, said that the Dateline segment could have put federal agents at the show at risk by exposing their identities.