The U.S. Intel Community's Demonization of Huawei Remains Highly Hypocritical

from the do-as-we-say,-not-as-we-do dept

We’ve noted for some time how Chinese hardware vendor Huawei has been consistently accused of spying on American citizens without any substantive, public evidence. You might recall that these accusations flared up several years ago, resulting in numerous investigations that culminated in no hard evidence whatsoever to support the allegations. We’re not talking about superficial inquiries, we’re talking about eighteen months, in-depth reviews by people with every interest in exposing them. One anonymous insider put it this way in the wake of the last bout of hysteria surrounding the company:

“We knew certain parts of government really wanted? evidence of active spying, said one of the people, who requested anonymity. ?We would have found it if it were there.”

Never mind that almost all U.S. network gear is made in (or comprised of parts made in) China. Never mind that years of reports have shown the United States spies on almost everyone, constantly. Never mind that reports have emerged that a lot of the spy allegations often originate with Huawei competitor Cisco, which was simply concerned with the added competition. Huawei is a spy. We’re sure of it. And covert network snooping is bad. When China does it.

Worries over Huawei bubbled up again recently when the U.S. government pressured both AT&T and Verizon to kill off plans to sell Huawei phones here in the States. It should be noted that Huawei phones are already available here, and the company has worked with several U.S. companies to gain a foothold in the U.S. market (like when it partnered with Google on the Nexus 6P). It should also probably be noted that in the modern era, you can’t really differentiate between where a company like AT&T ends and the NSA begins, given the telco’s extreme enthusiasm for spying on American citizens itself.

This week, hysteria concerning Huawei again reached a fevered pitch, as U.S. intelligence chiefs, testifying before Congress over Russian hacking and disinformation concerns, again proclaimed that Huawei was spying on American citizens and their products most assuredly should not be used:

“At the hearing, FBI Director Chris Wray testified, ?We?re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don?t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks.” Purchasing Huawei or ZTE products, Wray added, ?provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”

Which values would those be, exactly? Would it be the values, as leaked Edward Snowden docs revealed, that resulted in the NSA hacking into Huawei, stealing source code, then attempting to plant its own backdoors into Huawei products? Or perhaps it’s the values inherent in working closely with companies like AT&T to hoover up every shred of data that touches the AT&T network and share it with the intelligence community? Perhaps it’s the values inherent in trying to demonize encryption, by proxy weakening security for everyone?

News outlets, semi-oblivious to their own nationalism, quickly ignored the NSA’s hypocrisy when it comes to worrying about values and regurgitated the intel chiefs’ concerns. Few could also be bothered to note that numerous investigations have culminated in bupkis, the NSA has routinely and consistently been caught doing precisely what they accuse Huawei of, or that American companies tend to drum up hysteria on this front simply because they’re afraid of competition (protectionism we routinely and justly accuse China of).

Focusing on Huawei also seems semi-myopic, given the fact that Chinese hardware can already be found in an absolute ocean of products available here in the States, many of which are made by U.S. hardware vendors. It also ignores the fact that if somebody really wants to hack us, all they need to do is spend five seconds hunting down one of a million poorly secured internet of broken things devices, which create millions of new easily-exploited attack vendors annually in businesses and residences nationwide.

None of this is to say it’s impossible that Huawei has helped the Chinese government spy, much like our own companies here in the States. But if you’re going to discuss this subject, you can’t have an honest conversation without highlighting our own hypocrisy on this front, given it’s abundantly clear that we’re perfectly OK with unethical behavior, backdoors, and spying with negligible oversight and accountability — provided the United States is the one doing it.

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Companies: huawei

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Comments on “The U.S. Intel Community's Demonization of Huawei Remains Highly Hypocritical”

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24 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

stupid agencies are not intelligent at all

“We knew certain parts of government really wanted” evidence of active spying, said one of the people, who requested anonymity. “We would have found it if it were there.”

Same as the russia collusion story…

…busy with politics and keeping the corruption going because they break the law everyday but also enforce it… yet kids are dying on their watch because they are not focused on reality based threats…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Did you not even read the article? Huawei hysteria has been a drum beat for years by the natsec blob, egged on by competing companies.

I don’t know how you possibly even consider that Trump is relevant at all, especially given his nominally adversarial relationship with the intelligence community that drives this evidence-free paranoia.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Good Guys Versus Bad Guys

It’s all very well to claim one side is the “good guys” and the other side is the “bad guys”. But that has to be more than just a marketing label–it has to mean something. What makes the good guys better than the bad guys? Is this just a question of blind loyalty? Of “my country right or wrong”? Would an objective observer see that one side is clearly superior to the other? What are these “values” that you stand for, exactly?

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Good Guys Versus Bad Guys

All excellent questions (sadly ignored by the other commenters so far).

Ultimately we must have morals – we must have beliefs about what is right and wrong.

China’s current government is indeed lacking in many ways – most notably about freedom of speech. But by historical standards, it’s a pretty good goverment – its people are increasingly prosperous and free.

The US government is also lacking in many ways – for example, it locks up more of its citizens than any country in the world, is an international bully, and is seething with arrogance. Yet, by historical standards, it’s also pretty good.

Neither is even vaguely comparable to the monstrous USSR or Nazi Germany (or China under Mao).

As an American, I have less to fear from the Chinese government that I do the USG – they’re unlikely to take my property or my freedom. (And a Chinese citizen has less to fear from the USG, for the same reasons.)

We all have to oppose evil, but in so doing we’re often forced to ally with a lesser evil. But we should never forget that that’s what we’re doing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Except this is NOT hypocritical: "We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks." "

No matter what NSA is doing, minion’s title is inaccurate and this screed can be read as simply anti-American and pro-foreigner.

And wasn’t Google buying Huawei hardware? — Phones, as I recall. So there’s your pro-Google tie, too.

Isn’t it odd how minions keep hitting the anti-American and pro-Google template? I don’t have to imagine it, I’m just WOKE as they say.


PS: some apparent noob asked what’s with the "minions" name?

That’s from 60’s rock group, Mike and The Minions, so taken up here for humor. (Hat tip to the late lamented Barry Crier on ISIHAC.)

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

1. I guess the gov is lucky there seems to be no ISDS “remedy” for Huawei here. Probably Cisco as well.

2. Pretty sure both Chinese and US gov could get Huawei to secretly backdoor device encryption for them. Oh well.

3. This is oddly the only threat and vulnerability the gov cares to disclose, but has not been noted by any security researchers of which i am aware, and they generally beat corps and govs to the punch by years.

tealdeer: cool story, bros.

Anonymous Coward says:

Unscrupulous domestic practices do not invalidate concerns over China using its own domestic technology companies as arms of the state while also helping them against their competition. Let’s look at Tencent for example.

-Last year, Tencent began testing a “social credit score” based on online behavior. If one wants to see their score, they need to input their real name and Chinese ID number.
-China’s state agency also said that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds would face a ban unless it produced an alternate Chinese version that aligned with “Core Socialist Values”. PUBG Corps had the choice of losing out on the Chinese market or partnering with a Chinese company that could navigate such a stipulation. So they struck a deal with Tencent, which is now publishing PUBG in China.
-As well, China blocked various aspects of the Steam Community. This is rather suspicious given that Tencent has its own game client/network called WeGame that is competing with Steam, a client where Tencent could easily monitor and score user’s online behavior.

So yes, given these series of actions by the Chinese government that benefit Tencent while Tencent takes actions that benefit the Chinese government, I feel that one should treat Chinese companies which want to make moves in the U.S. with some level of skepticism.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You might recall that these accusations flared up several years ago, resulting in numerous investigations that culminated in no hard evidence whatsoever to support the allegations. We’re not talking about superficial inquiries, we’re talking about eighteen months, in-depth reviews by people with every interest in exposing them.

Concern is one thing, and could very well be warranted, but in this case a detailed investigation found nothing to back up the allegations(allegations which apparently often originate from one of their competitors), so either the company is clean, the investigation was run by incompetents, or they are masterful in hiding any shady actions.

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