Senator Cotton Dumbly Claims Huawei Building 5G Networks Is Like Letting The USSR Build US Cold War Submarines

from the ill-communication dept

We’ve noted for a while that the “race to 5G” is largely just the byproduct of telecom lobbyists hoping to spike lagging smartphone and network hardware sales. Yes, 5G is important in that it will provide faster, more resilient networks when it’s finally deployed at scale years from now. But the society-altering impacts of the technology are extremely over-hyped, international efforts to deploy the faster wireless standard aren’t really a race, and even if it were, our broadband maps are so terrible (often by monopolist design), it would be impossible to actually determine who won.

A huge part of the idiotic “race to 5G” narrative involves ample fear mongering over China, or the idea that if China somehow deploys 5G faster to Chinese residents, that somehow means… anything to the consumers in the US already facing high prices and patchy availability. The reality is that China is well ahead of the United States in terms of 5G deployment already, and the 5G being deployed here in the States is notably slower than many overseas 5G deployments because of a lack of mid-band spectrum (aka policy failure). It’s simply not a race, and the monopoly-dominated US telecom sector isn’t likely to “win” it.

Yet another aspect of the whole “race to 5G” narrative is the endless pearl-clutching and face-fanning about Chinese telecom giant Huawei, and its role in helping build global 5G networks. The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to claim that Huawei should be unequivocally banned from participating in global 5G builds. Many lawmakers in Germany and the UK have repeatedly balked at this request, quite correctly noting that nobody in the Trump administration has been able to provide any public evidence that Huawei has spied on Americans or Europeans at scale.

Companies like Microsoft have expressed skepticism as well:

“When Microsoft asked US lawmakers to explain the threat, they’ve been too vague for Smith’s liking. Huawei is a major customer of his company: Its laptops come with Microsoft’s Windows operating system. “Oftentimes, what we get in response is, ‘Well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us’,” Smith told Bloomberg. “And our answer is, ‘Great, show us what you know so we can decide for ourselves. That’s the way this country works.'”

To be clear, Huawei engages in shaky, unethical behavior. But so does AT&T. So does Verizon. So does the NSA, routinely. And while there’s certainly security considerations when it comes to using Huawei’s gear, a lot of this hysteria has been driven in DC by companies like Cisco for years, simply because they don’t want to have to compete with cheaper Chinese hardware. It’s extremely easy to bury anti-competitive motivations under the din national security. And it’s pretty easy to hoodwink press outlets that can’t identify, much less navigate, their own patriotic bias.

Enter Senator Tom Cotton, who this week equated letting China help build global 5G networks to letting the USSR develop US submarines during the cold war:

“Tom Cotton, who represents Arkansas, said he had geopolitical and technical objections to Huawei and claimed that, if hacked, its equipment could track the movements of key parts for F35 fighter jets. Deploying Huawei, the politician continued, ?would be as if we had relied on adversarial nations in the cold war to build our submarines, or to build our tanks. It?s just not something that we would have ever considered.”

Except that’s hyperbolic nonsense. Keep in mind, the US has already banned Huawei from its networks. And all the UK is proposing is letting Huawei participate in up to 35% of its network builds, which will need to undergo elaborate security and standards checks under the watchful eye of heavy skepticism. And again, there’s also this annoying fact that nobody has been able to provide public evidence that Huawei uses its gear to spy on Americans on behalf of the Chinese, despite fifteen years of vague allegations of this type, including a 18 month investigation by the US government that found… bupkis.

If there was evidence, the administration would have found some way to release at least a heavily redacted version of it. As a result, countries like the UK and Germany have argued that instead of engaging in a costly (and probably unenforceable) game of global blackballing, countries can simply refuse to use gear that can clearly be proven not to be secure via the elaborate security and safety processes that already exist. Many UK leaders are also quite correct in noting that this isn’t a subject the United States really has much credibility on given its history of surveillance, falsehoods, and leadership failures:

“Stewart McDonald, an SNP MP, also challenged Cotton, arguing that the behaviour of Donald Trump, particularly during the George Floyd crisis, adversely affected the United States?s ability to lead on the issue. ?The current presidential leadership and, in particular, his style of leadership is grossly undermining,? McDonald said.”

Huawei, meanwhile, is likely correct in noting that the origins of this entire effort stems from companies that don’t want the Chinese giant encroaching on the US dominated smartphone and network hardware markets:

“Speaking after the hearing, Victor Zhang, the vice-president of Huawei, said the hearing demonstrated that the senator?s principal concern was that the company had become too successful in an industry where the US has traditionally dominated. “It?s clear its market position, rather than security concerns, underpins America?s attack on Huawei as the committee was given no evidence to substantiate security allegations,? he added.”

This is true. There’s an entire cottage industry of US industry lobbyists driving this train that simply don’t want to lose revenues via more intense Chinese competition. How much of this is genuine national security concerns? How much of this is lobbyist gamesmanship? Would the ratio even be measurable?

Again, Huawei is no saint. There’s evidence that the company has helped some governments in Africa spy on political opponents and journalists. But again, this is all stuff the United States, NSA, and partners like AT&T engage in on a regular basis, and you don’t see folks calling for a blacklisting of AT&T (can you imagine the US hyperventilation if a foreign government tried?). The United States has been such a rabid supporter of unchecked global spying — and bullshits so frequently on this subject — that it’s pretty hard to take us seriously when it comes to doling out advice on trust and surveillance.

Again it’s a complicated subject, and few involved with it seem up to the task of separating patriotism, bigotry, and the motivations of US giants like Cisco from intelligent global policy.

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Comments on “Senator Cotton Dumbly Claims Huawei Building 5G Networks Is Like Letting The USSR Build US Cold War Submarines”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Alfa-class submarines were pretty damn good.

The Alfas were very fast, but that came with the drawback of being EXTREMELY loud. I recall a line from a Tom Clancy-style story where an US sonar operator joked he could track one with a glass pressed to the hull of his sub.

Plus their liquid-metal cooled power plant had a nasty habit of destroying itself when turned below a certain level, even in port. The coolant simply stopped being liquid metal and voila, big radioactive paperweight!

The truly eye-opening thing about the Alfa was the all-titanium hull, the first time that had ever been tried.

Anonymous Coward says:

I mean you can hate on whatever company for whatever reason you want to but maybe do some research on how Cisco has changed over the past 8 years? Their current CEO, Chuck Robbins, forbid employees from using any US-China tensions to their advantage when engaging with customers not too long ago. Maybe 8 years ago when Chambers was in charge things were different but, you know, things do change when CEOs change but what do I know. Heck, in the same article he takes issue with this who ban in the first place and it’s caused them some grief financially as well in a market they’d probably like to expand in.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That actually supports continuing to bring up how much of these security concerns were driven by Cisco, because the options now are either:

1) Cisco actually had real security concerns, and now the new CEO is attempting to bury them for financial gain or
2) Cisco never had any real security concerns, and the old CEO was lying about them for financial gain while the new CEO is actively covering this up

In any case, clearly the entire premise needs to be re-examined in light of Cisco being clearly untrustworthy, and in neither case is Cisco presently looking good.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
hij (profile) says:

Oh no! Not the F-35

Senator Cotton might have an easier time of making his point if he chose a weapon system that actually works. There is likely not much to fear about China knowing where spare parts for the F-35 are when they would be put in a plane that cannot even track another target. Then again, maybe he is worried that the Chinese would make it easier to keep that system repaired?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Cotton just gave an opening here to a bunch of whiny whataboutist twats."

Cotton’s previous open call for the US to commit actual war crimes on its home soil didn’t go unnoticed – and neither does his new call about how allowing a foreign corporation to build an already impractical and dysfynctional network all over the US would be comparable to old soviet being given free access to US boomers.

Because 5G is pretty much a scam no matter how you slice it, especially in the US where AT&T’s been all too busy redefining the standard until what it means is "Like 4G, only worse.".

The real reason Cotton is up in arms about it is because if, god forbid, Huawei gets the 5G contract it’ll mean several major Trump campaign contributors aren’t landing their trotters in that pork barrel. It’s that simple.

China’s a convenient bogeyman there, but with half of the world’s electronics already being manufactured there, putting the screws on Huawei is going to accomplish exactly what?

"…against China and its state champion in the fight against free society."

I didn’t see Bill Barr mentioned anywhere in the OP. Because within US borders He and Trump have so far proven China’s greatest allies when it comes to fighting against freedom.

Anonymous Coward says:

Microsoft’s Objection

“Oftentimes, what we get in response is, ‘Well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us’," Smith told Bloomberg. "And our answer is, ‘Great, show us what you know so we can decide for ourselves. That’s the way this country works.’‘

I would imagine that discussing the details of what the USG knows about Huwawei’s ability to assist the PLA with its SIGINT would expose sources and methods that the intelligence community may not want known. It’s the double-edged sword of needing to communicate the knowledge and not wanting to blow up your own capabilities in the process.

So I doubt it’s “pearl-clutching” and “face-fanning much like I doubt that the intelligence community’s reports about Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election to get the Cheeto-in-Chief elected was “pearl-clutching” and “face-fanning’.

Anymouse says:

Re: Microsoft’s Objection

The issue is that they know that all Cisco hardware has been compromised for the USA, so they can’t let any other gear on the network, or it could be used to ‘sniff out’ the bad actors in the USA (most likely some TLA, like the CIA, ICE, FBI, etc).

So if you knew how bad we have compromised the hardware, you would know why we can’t allow any other gear on our network.

That’s what they are really hiding (as a former Cisco employee may have told me over a large quantity of drinks one night…)

Aaron Walkhouse (profile) says:

It all comes down to this:

Can Huawei firmware be updated online?

If so, all the other legs of the platform
are already in place; because they already
have vast resources to serve up those updates,
China does have the legal authority to order
them to add encrypted exfiltration to their
hardware and the family who owns Huawei are
loyal plutarchs in a nation which reserves
the power to arbitrarily take away all that
they have and tuck them away in "re-education"
camps for life, which would likely be short.

It doesn’t matter they are not doing it now.
When told to start spying they cannot resist.
What we can do is ensure Huawei deposits all
the firmware and source code with a trusted
third party like a multinational auditing firm
and ensure all updates on critical infrastructure
must be performed manually if at all. With the
Communist Party locked out of that loop, we can
trust the equipment.

ECA (profile) says:

Always like this comment...

"compete with cheaper Chinese hardware."

Cheap is a kill word, but how may things do we have built IN, China, by our corps that we buy All the time, TO the standards of USA corps?
HOW many things Built in the USA, including the CRAP NASA used in the past, have failed??
Our corps have changed mentality, to the point that insted of having things repairable, and long lasting, to a point that repairs(if possible) you cant find the parts in the USA.
The capitalist mentality is "we have to make them buy more, and more often." is starting to kill us.

I love it when they say capitalism is based on COMPETITION.. No its not.
Capitalism restricts and holds specific goods to each group/corps and hardly lets anyone compete With that group. Even when they look like 2-3 companies in the end they are Owned by 1 major corp, or they have made DEALS NOT to compete, and raise prices Equally, to the point that over 40% of the nation cant really afford to buy those goods.

Oddball reasons have pushed corps to PUSH the economy, even tho profits are HUGE at the top, and the Workers have been cut to the point that…
Max employment in the USA based on population and 1 income homes.
300 million people, and we never count those NOT/dont need to work.
A family of 3 would mean that we have 100 million workers.
A family of 4 means we only have 75 million workers.
After this point you can figure it out.

At this time how many jobs are there in the USA. How many Households REQUIRE more then 1 person to work, to pay bills and rents, and a SMALL percentage for entertainment.
Just because we see numbers in low percentages of Unemployed dont mean we have enough jobs. An old comment that RENTS should nt be over 1/4 of your wage, means nothing, when rents are 1/2 of your wages, and your bills are 1/4 again, and the rest is for insurance, fuel, food, and then want CABLE TV.,9.6%20million%20(or%20%2480%2C000).

WHAT USA CEO/OWNER would do this?? NONE that I know of.

ATT CEO Fired/quit this year After a 10% raise and him earning 38 million +… Which is something like $4000 per hour 24/7 x 365 days of the year.

Good luck folks..trying to find a Fair and balanced Capitalism ISNT easy.

Edward Huguenin says:

Sen. Tom Cotton

Here we have two members of congress having a cock fight. Senator Cotton echoed the anti-Russian theme during the McCain hearing. Cotton also has a problem with CIA blackmail.

This comment coming from a GAY Senator from racist Arkansas!
Here you have gay Tom Cotton and a White Nationalist, what a combination?

Sen. Cotton, a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and a close colleague of Graham, was found to have been running political ads on GRINDR, a smart phone application for gay men looking to hook up with other gay men, during his 2014 senate campaign.

Cotton, both during his time as a member of the U.S. Army’s "Old Guard" at Arlington National Cemetery and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was a frequent customer of JR’s, a well-known gay bar in Washington, DC’s primarily-gay Dupont Circle neighborhood.

If the CIA continues to follow precedent, it has plenty of incriminating evidence on Cotton, who hastily got married in March 2014 during his Senate campaign in Arkansas. It is no coincidence that the CIA’s major -Russia activists on the Armed Services Committee are the immensely blackmailable , Graham, and Cotton.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: The gay proclivities of closeted VIPs

Some people (including some public personalities in the LGBT+ community) debate whether or not elected officials should be outed, especially if their sexual interests run contrary to the policies they push. As tempting as it is, I think it’s inconsistent with our own values. Assuming Senator Cotton did partake of such services, I wouldn’t judge him for that. I would judge him for his cruel policies as an elected official, and it would be for those reasons I’d want the Sword of Damocles to strike, not his bits on the side.

If we did out him, it would show a level of desperation on part of the LGBT community that is contrary to our style and sense of decorum.

But our President and his own offensive, lecherous history has answered this dilemma for us. He relies on the the capacity of his highly-religious allies to forgive him where they gleefully condemn countless others. This phenomenon in 2016 demonstrated for us that the conservative inner circle doesn’t turn on its own, no matter how they’ve blasphemed or desecrated the commons. For the most devout and judgemental of our religious conservative communities, wrongdoing, whether sin against God, crime against the state or trespass against each other, these are something that other people do. Allies will always are forgiven and get a mulligan. Only meek outsiders who cannot defend themselves are given no quarter. And their loyalty to each other in their very private social club is more important than their sense of integrity and consistency.

Let Dionysius’ sword strike there.

That is what should create some nuclear blowback.

So, let our senators do their things. If they need the D, let them find it in peace, as we would let each other. Let the people decide if it wants to be ruled by a tight-knit conclave of self-serving cronies, or it wants to be ruled according to a consistent codex of laws and customs that apply evenly and equally to all of us.

The recent protests seem to suggest we’re tired of equality for some.

The longer we wait for change the more explosive the flashpoints will blaze.

(Granted, If they’re shitty to their hired sex workers or don’t tip well, feel free to point that out. Closeted VIPs just can’t afford to be jerks to their hires, and Americans comprehend on a personal level the cruelty of poor tippers.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Masnick –

Do you consider potential Russian interference in the US to be "bigotry" and "pearl-clutching and face-fanning"?

I’m wondering how much of this article is about "Senator Cotton said it, and I hate Senator Cotton; ergo, I hate what he said" and how much of it is about "Republicans are mistrustful of China, Chinese are non-White; ergo, bigotry".

I mean, it’s definitely a combination of the two. I’m just asking the percentage.

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