Huawei more wronged than doing wrong
- Washington has long branded Huawei a threat to national security, not only its own but that of its allies
- But everything that Washington has claimed Huawei is capable of doing, its own cyber-spies have already committed against it
It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Huawei and its No 2, Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, who has been arrested in Vancouver and is now fighting extradition to the United States. The more you read about the case, the more it looks like the company is being wronged than doing wrongs.
First, there is its identification with another mainland telecoms firm ZTE in the minds of many anti-China hawks in Washington. US Republican Senator Marco Rubio has claimed that ZTE and Huawei are “two sides of the same coin”. If so, ZTE has been the perfect Judas.
It has been widely reported that the Justice Department started investigating Huawei after ZTE ratted out its Chinese telecoms cousin. ZTE was, at the time, being targeted by the US government for breaching American sanctions against North Korea and Iran. It’s not clear exactly what sanction laws Huawei has run afoul of, but ZTE has reportedly told the Americans that Huawei was trading with Iran, most likely with technology or components originating from the US.
Senior ZTE managers couldn’t save themselves, though, as under a deal with the US Justice Department, they were all sacked. But perhaps it was better than being arrested like Meng.
Washington has long branded Huawei a threat to national security, not only its own but that of its allies. It has pressured, pretty successfully, other countries not to use its products, especially its 5G networks. The claim is that these could have “back doors” accessible to mainland intelligence and industrial espionage.
But of course, everything that Washington has claimed Huawei is capable of doing, its own cyber-spies from the National Security Agency have already committed against it. People have short memories, but let’s remember Edward Snowden for a moment.
Among his massive leaks were classified reports (available on edwardsnowden.com) about how NSA hackers breached Huawei’s networks well before 2010 by setting up back doors directly into servers located in its sealed headquarters in Shenzhen.
Code-named Shotgiant, the operation obtained, presumably illegally by Chinese laws, detailed workings of Huawei’s routers and digital switches that it sold around the world.
While its original aim was to establish any links between the telecom and mainland intelligence services, it enabled US agencies to hack into any computer or telecoms network around the world that used Huawei’s products. In other words, Washington has been doing for years what it has warned Huawei and the Chinese could do.