As Trump Prepares Ban On Huawei, Few Notice The Major Holes In The Underlying Logic

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

During the Trump era, the government has dramatically ramped up claims that Chinese hardware vendor Huawei is a nefarious spy for the Chinese government, blackballing it from the U.S. telecom market. From pressuring U.S. carriers to drop plans to sell Huawei phones to the FCC’s decision to ban companies from using Huawei gear if they want to receive federal subsidies, this effort hasn’t been subtle.

This week, there are rumblings that the Trump administration is about to take things further with a total ban on Huawei gear anywhere inside of the United States. The news is to be formally announced ahead of the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, likely with a heavy emphasis on how the move will cement U.S. dominance in the “race to 5G,” a largely nonsensical concept drummed up by networking hardware vendor marketing departments.

The problem: there’s still no public evidence Huawei uses its network gear to spy on Americans, and much of the motivation for this assault on Huawei has been proven to be largely about protectionism, not national security.

There’s no doubt that Huawei, like AT&T here in the states, isn’t a shining beacon of ethical behavior. At the same time, the dulcet undertones justifying much of the blacklisting is based on the premise that the company spies on Americans. Yet nobody has provided evidence of that. In fact, one 18-month investigation into Huawei in 2011 (the last time we had a flare of up this hysteria) found that there was no evidence supporting that claim:

“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.”

Also ignored is that U.S. hardware vendors like Cisco have a very long history of trying to gin up hysteria on Capital Hill on this front among lawmakers who aren’t too keen on, well, facts:

“What happens is you get competitors who are able to gin up lawmakers who are already wound up about China,? said one Hill staffer who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. ?What they do is pull the string and see where the top spins.”

Also ignored in most tech press coverage of the moves against Huawei is the fact that the United States is guilty of most of the stuff we accuse Huawei of. In fact, Snowden docs revealed that the NSA (aka the United States) had broken into Huawei as early as 2007 in a bid to steal source code and covertly implant backdoors into Huawei products. Similarly you’ll recall how the NSA was also busted intercepting Cisco hardware in transit, taking that gear to a special facility, then outfitting it with backdoors. That sends a pretty clear message: unethical behavior is okay when we do it.

Also ignored is the fact that our own telecom operators don’t have stellar backgrounds on this subject either. AT&T, for example, is effectively bone-grafted to our nationwide intelligence apparatus, and almost certainly helps the United States spy on citizens all over the world. AT&T, a company just busted paying $600K to a dubious NYC fixer and confessed criminal, has a long history of turning a blind eye to all manner of frauds and cons being perpetrated on its own customers. Again, the message sent is: unethical behavior is okay when we do it.

Look, Huawei is no pillar of virtue, having been caught copying code and (depending on how the court battle goes) potentially violating sanctions. But a large portion of the justification for blacklisting them (in turn escalating an already troubling and costly trade war) is based on the idea that Huawei has been caught spying on Americans, something that hasn’t been publicly proven. And in filings with the FCC (pdf), small carriers say they’ll actively be harmed by a ban on this cheaper Huawei hardware, since the lower costs help them better compete with larger U.S. rivals.

In short, this subject is far more complicated than most press coverage suggests, and a little fuller context when it comes to discussing these moves doesn’t seem like too much to ask. Especially given that the American press and government would be positively apoplectic were foreign countries to ban our own network gear as punishment for our own, well-documented sins. Patriotism oddly blinds us to our own hypocrisy on this subject, lending some wonderful cover to U.S. companies who’ve been pressing all the right buttons in DC in a protectionist bid to avoid having to compete with cheaper Chinese gear.

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Companies: cisco, huawei

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Comments on “As Trump Prepares Ban On Huawei, Few Notice The Major Holes In The Underlying Logic”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

And in filings with the FCC (pdf), small carriers say they’ll actively be harmed by a ban on this cheaper Huawei hardware, since the lower costs help them better compete with larger U.S. rivals.

Pure coincidence I’m sure, I mean it’s not like a government agency(and especially one during the Trump presidency) would deliberately pass rules to screw over the little guys in order to help the bigger companies.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Expected Response

If he somehow manages to undo Nixon’s mistake of legitimizing China and allowing them to rise into a global superpower without first taking the time to mature into a responsible society, that will absolutely be a great win for pretty much the entire world.

(Whether or not that actually happens is another matter entirely, but a guy can dream, can’t he?)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Expected Response

America is not a "great" country and violates human rights just like all major countries do.

Oh yes. Just like North Korea, China, and Russia. Yep, no difference.

Not saying America has no problems or rights violations but there is a MASSIVE difference in type and severity between America and other major countries.

Hyperbole does not help your argument.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Expected Response

Like it or not, Russia and China are major countries in the world. China alone has a significant percentage of the world’s population. And that’s just talking population. Russia and China also hold a significant amount of political and economic power in the world. North Korea I could admit maybe doesn’t rise to "major" country but is a source of major military contention for China, Russia, South Korea, Japan, and the US. All of which are major countries.

If those don’t meet your definition of major country than please, tell us what criteria is required to be a "major country".

Have you got to find the bottom of the barrel to validate your argument?

No but I was not trying to "validate my argument" or say that the US was "great". The AC I was responding to used the exact words "all major countries" (emphasis mine). So he is equating the US to ALL other major countries including, but not limited to, China and Russia at the very least. Therefore, I was pointing out the absurdity of his statement in equating the US to Russia and China, not making a statement about how great the US is.

Is America great because we’re better than North Korea, Russia and China?

First off, tell me what is great? What makes a country great? China and Russia say their countries are great. Do you agree? Would you rather live there or in the US? Is America great? Well we can debate that but it all depends on your definition of great. Is great defined by how many freedoms the population has? Or the amount of minimal human rights violations? What about political or economic power? Is it one of these things or a combination and aggregation of all of them?

It’s entirely possible that no country is "great" or ever has been "great" in the history of the entire world (America included), depending on what your definition and threshold is. It would be just as legitimate to say "What makes a country great is if they have working hyperdrive space travel.". Well, nobody has that so no country is or ever was great.

My comment was not about the "greatness" of America, it was about the absurdity of saying that America is no better than countries that routinely oppress their entire populations and deny them many basic human rights.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Expected Response

Let me know when you find a responsible society – not that China isn’t supremely fucked up and clearly on path to reap what they have sewn on many levels from their pollution, to their corruption, and their social credit idea which will clearly have set up a recruit/purge list for the next major rebellion.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Expected Response

If he somehow manages to undo Nixon’s mistake of legitimizing China and allowing them to rise into a global superpower without first taking the time to mature into a responsible society, that will absolutely be a great win for pretty much the entire world.

China rose into a global superpower following Our Glorious Leaders’ facilitating the outsourcing of our jobs to them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why stop with banning gear at the telecom level? Time to go balls deep on protectionism!

Ban consumer phones from Huawei (and ZTE) as well! You wouldn’t install anti-virus on a server while leaving your workstations unprotected. Why ban the telco equipment while leaving the rest of us phoning home to China? Make everyone march into their local store and submit their phones for confiscation, since it’s such a risk to our country!

As far as what folks who are now out a phone are to do? Buy a top-notch American-made cell phone!

Anonymous Coward says:

Prioritizing cybersecurity

the White House hopes to send a signal that future contracts for cutting-edge technology must prioritize cybersecurity.

The ongoing cybersecurity threat and scandal related to telecommunications is location privacy. I’m not going to believe the above statement until they start funding and promoting technological ways to address that; legal methods would be a start but aren’t going to work.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: You just cannot make this stuff up...

the White House hopes to send a signal that future contracts for cutting-edge technology must prioritize cybersecurity.

This of course being the same White House that, unless something has changed in the last couple of months, can’t even manage basic cybersecurity for what is almost certainly one of the most tempting intel targets in the US, the gorram president, because doing so would be ‘too inconvenient’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Prioritizing cybersecurity

Part of the problem is that is intrinsic with airwaves. The cell infastructure needs to know where a user is to send their data only there the alternative is sending their data /everywhere/. More bandwidth it squeezed into an area by shrinking the cells and adding more. The closest "viable" option would be allowing arbitrary activation of extra cells to spoof it as a feature and even that would have numerous giveaways.

Legal is the side for location privacy in the same sense door locks keep only the honest and lazy out.

Peter (profile) says:

No holes in the Underlying Logic

The Underlying Logic: "National Security" trumps the law. The constitution. And any international agreement you can think of.

Sure, in the long term, we might learn that some of those laws and regulations were there for a reason. And, since we are replacing the rule of law with the rule of whoever has the biggest gun, there may be day when someone else has a bigger gun.

But hey, that is in the long term, long after Trumps re-election. Long after the current politicians retire. And long after the current industry captains execute their stock options.

Unless Napoleon was right: "China is a sleeping lion. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world."

ECA (profile) says:

A pot called balck

For all the finger pointing that goes on, we Seem to be the Pot calling the kettle black.
A site was up to show internet data from different points around major locations in the world, and SOME were marked as hacks…
Those from everywhere else were 1/2 of what the USA were doing..

Its very entertaining to think this all started from 9/11..And hasnt ended with the death of those responsible..
But who is making the money??

Vic B (profile) says:

Since the beginning of this anti Huawei and ZTE frenzy about 6 months ago I wondered a couple things: what specifically did they do to threaten US national security? and if they did something, are US manufacturers (Cisco in particular) not doing the same? I’ve been very surprised that no major news media (this article being the first) is asking those basic questions.

Anonymous Coward says:

I just hope that does not apply to batteries for older Hauwei devices. I have an old Huawei I used to store all the offline road maps for GPS, becuase none of the newer phones will let me store the maps on the SD card, and it takes something like 15 gigabytes to store maps for all of Alaska, Canada, Mexico, the lower 48 US states and DC, and all of Central America.

As it is I have to use two different phones when on a road trip,the Huawei for the maps, and then a Samsung to store all of my MP3 music (about 13 gigabytes)

I needs that old Huawei to store my offline GPS maps, as there is a lot of places where there is no data. There are places where there is voice, but no data, especuially in the radio quiet zones in Nevada and West Virginia to protect Area 51 in Nevada and a radio telescope in West Virginia, and the only cell service, if you can get it at all, is old fashioned analog voice service in the 800 MHz band, and only if you are in or near a town somewhere.

So I hope that the ban on Hauwei phones does not keep anyone from selling the batteries for them.

tom (profile) says:

Hard to get very worried about Huawei gear when hardly a day goes by with yet another IOT data leak/pawn story and on line privacy is a joke due to constant tracking and data aggregation.

Plus as a bonus example of US stupidity on device security, the latest FAA drone tracking security idea is to mandate the connection of all drones to the Internet with their ID and location being sent to a central FAA site. What can go wrong when millions of cheaply made drones with crap software are forced to be constantly online?

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