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Bill Clinton bars press from RSA talk this week

The former president, who's scheduled to speak at a computer security conference in San Francisco on Friday, has suddenly become shy of journalists.

SAN FRANCISCO--Bill Clinton is scheduled to speak at a computer security conference here on Friday, but you may not hear much about what he has to say: the former president has suddenly grown shy of journalists.

Signs popped up today at the RSA Conference inside the Moscone Center announcing: "Due to contract restrictions, anyone wearing a press badge will not be allowed into Friday afternoon's keynote sessions."

Bill Clinton wants to ban anyone with a "press badge" from his keynote. No word yet on whether blogging, Facebooking, e-mailing, and Twittering from the event will be prohibited too. Declan McCullagh/CNET

Clinton is scheduled to deliver the 1 p.m. "closing keynote" that day. He charges as much as $350,000 per speech, according to a article.

The suddenly media-shy 42nd president and the RSA conference organizers gave no hint of the restrictions in September's announcement or the subsequent press release (PDF), which promised that attendees will benefit from Clinton's "unique and impassioned perspective on the human condition around the world."

This follows former vice president Al Gore barring the press from his RSA keynote in 2008 (and at a number of events before that as well). Gore also insisted, as a condition of speaking at the 2009 CTIA conference, that reporters be prohibited from attending but relented after public criticism.

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin took the same approach during a Right to Life event in Milwaukee, Wis., but went further and limited gadgets among the audience. And U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia chose to restrict broadcast media from a 2003 speech in Cleveland.

There is, by the way, one more keynote speaker on Friday afternoon after Clinton: RSA regular Hugh Thompson is speaking about computer security. Not only does Thompson not object to press coverage, but video of his 2009 keynote has been posted online.

The odd thing, of course, about Clinton's apparent dislike of independent media coverage is that any ban is sure to fall flat. As many as 10,000 or so tech-obsessives will be in the room this Friday, with many Tweeting, blogging, Facebook-ing, and otherwise generally dissecting what the ex-president has to say.

Besides, any journalists who are also speaking at RSA will be able to show up to the speech anyway.