Wired-up general tied in knots

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 July, 2013, 4:52pm

Spare a thought for Michael Hayden. And if it is a good one, share it with your friends on the Web, so that he knows.

And feel, if you can, the general's pain. Here he was hoping the United States had a lock on the mass surveillance thing, but guess what, the damned Chinese wouldn't leave even this market alone.

The former CIA chief on Friday said that China is engaged in unrestricted espionage against the West and that Chinese telecoms giant Huawei spies for Beijing. "That's my professional judgment," he declared.

Listen carefully when General Hayden spouts on surveillance and corporate collusion, he knows a thing or two about it. It was after all under his stewardship that America's National Security Agency engaged in an unprecedented illegal programme of wiretapping under which it monitored, without warrants, the phone calls, internet activity and text messages of millions of people in and outside the US.

Codenamed Stellar Wind, Hayden's labour of love was the forerunner of the even grander Prism, which Edward Snowden outed. American private corporations seem to be an important part of this illegal data collection and mining. Files leaked to The Guardian suggest Microsoft helped the NSA in circumventing encrypted chat messages. Last year Wired magazine ran a story on the Stellar Wind project in which a former NSA official detailed how Verizon and AT&T helped in data collection, saying there are 10 to 20 listening posts in major US telecom facilities.

Similar charges of electronic monitoring and shadowy links to the government and the military have been levelled at Huawei. Its Cyber Security Evaluation Centre in England triggered a UK government probe last week.

Asked by the Australian Financial Review on Friday if Huawei posed a security threat, Hayden, currently a director of Motorola Solutions, said: "Yes, I believe it does … At a minimum, Huawei would have shared with the Chinese state intimate and extensive knowledge of the foreign telecommunications systems it is involved with. I think that goes without saying."

It's par for the course. The general should know.