US Telcos Threatened With Loss Of Government Contracts If They Do Business With Huawei

from the evidence-schmevidence dept

Last week we noted how AT&T was forced to scrap a partnership with Huawei to sell the company's smartphones here in the States, just hours before it was set to be announced at CES. The reason? Apparently a few members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees fired off a letter to the FCC demanding that they pressure US telcos into avoiding Huawei. The letter, which nobody has published, allegedly accuses the company of being little more than an intelligence proxy for the Chinese government.

There are several problems with this. While it's certainly possible that Huawei helps the Chinese government spy, there's been no hard evidence of this. In fact, numerous investigations (including one eighteen months long) found no evidence of any spying whatsoever. What inquiries did find is that these allegations pretty consistently originate with U.S. hardware vendors like Cisco, who routinely enjoy playing up the threat simply because they don't want to compete with Chinese hardware vendors. You know, the very same thing we routinely (often quite accurately) complain about China doing.

Despite no real evidence, a new Reuters report indicates this new pressure is much greater than just AT&T's smartphone partnership. In fact, the report suggests that the government is now urging all US telcos and ISPs to avoid using any Huawei gear whatsoever if they want to continue winning government contracts (and as an NSA BFF, AT&T has plenty of contracts to protect). From the report:

"The lawmakers are also advising U.S. firms that if they have ties to Huawei or China Mobile, it could hamper their ability to do business with the U.S. government, one aide said, requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

One of the commercial ties senators and House members want AT&T to cut is its collaboration with Huawei over standards for the high-speed next generation 5G network, the aides said. Another is the use of Huawei handsets by AT&T’s discount subsidiary Cricket, the aides said.

And while Reuters mentioned that there have been investigations, it oddly forgets to mention what the outcome of those investigations were (again, zero evidence of spying). Also ignored is the fact that Chinese networking hardware is absolutely everywhere in the States, including being embedded in many of the products sold by U.S. manufacturers. If China wants to spy on America, it only need turn to the ocean of poorly secured IOT devices, the lion's share of which are now made in China by companies with a complete and total disinterest in anything even vaguely resembling security standards.

Similarly and comedically ignored is the fact the United States government engages in this kind of behavior all of the time. You might recal the NSA was caught intercepting Cisco hardware to install surveillance technology a few years ago. The Snowden documents also revealed how the NSA hacked into Huawei and stole company source code as early as 2007, all in the hopes of planting backdoors in network hardware used by countries who avoid buying American gear. Everyone but the most ardently myopic patriots realize that the United States' credibility on this subject was dismantled decades ago.

This latest wave of hysteria comes simultaneously and not-coincidentally as Representatives Michael Conaway and Liz Cheney introduced a bill banning US carriers from doing any business whatsoever with Huawei or ZTE Corp (two guesses on which companies are pushing for that law). Again, it's perfectly possible that Huawei helps the Chinese government spy. But if that's the case, it shouldn't be too difficult to provide some hard evidence supporting this position. Unless, of course, this is all little more than an adorable little stage play concocted simply to protect US hardware vendors from having to actually compete.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 12:15pm

    While this is nonsense on the part of the government, this is also nothing corps shouldn't already be doing. Huawei's crappy builds should stay in the trash heap where they belong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 1:27pm

      Re:

      What do you think about companies like Elephone and Doogee, then?

      That's a legitimate question, by the way.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 10:56pm

        Re: Re:

        Different snowflake, same person you replied to.

        Never heard of 'em. I won't form an opinion on a company I've never heard of or know anything about. What I do know is that Huawei made a terrible faulty phone in the Nexus 6P, and the only reason I didn't get fucked by that is because I bought direct from Google, and they out of warranty replaced my phone with a Pixel XL.

        I have a similar beef with LG and Samsung, though those affected people I know as opposed to myself.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 12:24pm

    Cheaters always assume everyone does it

    Our government refuses to believe that a foreign company would not give in and allow the networks to be infiltrated since that is exactly what happens here. When you are dirty and subborn others to make them state actors, you assume everyone is at least as dirty.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 12:28pm

    Everyone should just become self-sufficient and close their borders. Governments could take control of tech companies and everyone would get the monopoly they want.

    Honestly, China and USA both have big enough job in spying on their own people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 17 Jan 2018 @ 12:30pm

    so AT&T would have spied for the Chinese govt. how is this different from AT&T spying for the US Govt?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 12:39pm

    in times of calm or disaster, government is always using money to push its controllers' agendas

    This sounds similar to what government does (or attempts to do) to disaster relief contractors to artificially prevent them from participating Boycott, Divest, and Sanction demonstrations against those who've invaded Palestine

    http://www.jpost.com/BDS-THREAT/Under-pressure-Houston-town-untethers-hurricane-relief-from -BDS-test-508640

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 17 Jan 2018 @ 12:42pm

    Competition?

    How many persons here, are using 2-4 gen phones, rather then CURRENT TECH??? that costs TONS MORE..

    What ever happened to the Thought/idea of capitalism..
    Competition
    FREE TRADE
    open trade

    ========================================
    Made in Japan
    China,
    Indonesia
    Taiwan
    ANY PLACE EXCEPT THE USA..
    Lets include all the parts we USE, that arnt made in the USA.
    ========================================
    Cheaper ISNT always better...but IT IS CHEAPER..
    DOES a higher price mean it will last longer?? NOPE.
    ========================================
    Econ 101
    Its not how much you PAY its how MANY you can sell..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Dingledore the Previously Impervious, 18 Jan 2018 @ 5:51am

      Re: Competition?

      Maybe I've just lost the ability to comprehend, but wtf are you actually trying to say? Your stream of consciousness post makes Trump sound coherent.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 12:53pm

    "Apparently a few members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees fired off a letter to the FCC demanding that they pressure US telcos into avoiding Huawei."

    Just a small bit of proof how much "control" unelected people have over the economy. Right now it is possible for a shadow coop to actually occur in the United States and the risk grows each election. The intelligence community armed with enough dirt will be capable of driving all manor of decisions while the rest of the faux informed citizens march on like the ignorant fucks we are!

    Hell, I am not even sure if it is possible to confirm one has not already occurred with all the "secrets" the government is allowed to keep!

    Shadow Players usually have the most power.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 1:05pm

      Re:

      The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are made up of elected officials though.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 2:13pm

        Re: Re:

        the committee does not do the work, they just make big pants decisions... it is the people doing the work that get all the cheese. Often time this is how the coop works. A more intelligent underling grows tired of a more incompetent superior and the games begin. All that is left after that is finding out where everyone's loyalty lies then bide your time till that scale weighs in your direction.

        The committee often becomes patsies to the players. The price we pay for keeping secrets is that the secret keepers have all the dirt!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 3:42pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I think you have been watching reruns of Nikita on Netflix.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Dingledore the Previously Impervious, 18 Jan 2018 @ 5:54am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Oh Nikita you will never know, anything about my home
            I'll never know how good it feels to hold you
            Nikita I need you so
            Oh Nikita is the other side of any given line in time
            Counting ten tin soldiers in a row
            Oh no, Nikita you'll never know

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2018 @ 10:57am

      Re:

      a shadow coop to actually occur in the United States

      the shadow coop, where the unseen corporate chickens come to lay their eggs, already hard boiled and full of secrets and evil influence (but low in cholesterol)...

      the shadow coop, where the dark nests of our oppressors lay, trampled and disregarded like our rights, and our freedoms, and our conspiracy theories...

      the shadow coop, from whence comes the sinister rooster, crowing not to announce the sunrise but instead to announce the arrival of our corporate overlords (ok occasionally a sunrise if it's really nice)...

      Beware the shadow coop! For the ground near it is covered in proposed legislation, which leaves a distinctive and unpleasant smell that is difficult to remove from your shoes if you step in it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 1:00pm

    Obvisiously, someone in the government doesn't understand how standards work. If AT&T and Huawei have employees both working on 5G, than there's nothing either of them can do about it. The standards are open so that all participants can add input. I'd be more worried that China and the US are both placing cryptography backdoors in the trasmission protocols so everyone is screwed. (RSA encryption, if anyone remembers) My suggestion would be to heavily vet all encryption standards and hopefully catch both of them trying to screw everyone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Jan 2018 @ 1:59pm

    Its almost like they make the policy they are paid to by contributors, and people will lap up narratives not based in reality if it supports the idea that everyone else is spying more than we are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Arthur Moore (profile), 17 Jan 2018 @ 2:12pm

    Against Trade Deals?

    Serious question. Is this legal? I mean the US has trade deals with China.

    It's pretty normal to say anything the government buys has to be made in America. It's not normal to say if you use any Chinese products the US government refuses to do business with you.

    Even the threat letters sent by congresspeople sound like an easy win for China at the WTO.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 2:36pm

    The same Cisco who built the Great Firewall of China?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 17 Jan 2018 @ 2:47pm

    from the proofreading dept

    What's a "disentrist"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 3:46pm

    where is the hard evidence.

    One other thing to keep in mind is the evidence you seek is classified. If that is the case you might only get those results in a classified report which (depending on classification level) won't be shared even in small parts with the public.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    spodula, 18 Jan 2018 @ 12:28am

    Stop standards collabaration?

    "One of the commercial ties senators and House members want AT&T to cut is its collaboration with Huawei over standards for the high-speed next generation 5G network, "

    So one of the brain-dead morons actually wants AT&T to hand over the generation of standards for the next generaton of Mobile phones to the Chinese?
    Please can someone name and shame this moron.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ryuugami, 18 Jan 2018 @ 2:55am

    Projection?

    Since they provide no proof, I see this as evidence that the US is actually the exact same thing they warn about.

    The US gov is weary of the Chinese devices spying on them, because the US is already doing it, so they know what can be done and how difficult it is to find proof.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 18 Jan 2018 @ 4:15am

    I'm no fan of China but there is plenty in the backstage to justify such arbitrary actions. Back when the developed world was deep into the financial crisis they produced themselves the BRICs started forming an alliance to be more autonomous. One of the results of this was an international bank that was born to be an alternative to the world bank and the IMF. Europe and the US got incredibly nervous about the initiative because at the time the BRICs were in quite good shape and there was a real risk they'd lose the control of the world order that was established post 1945. The attacks against the alliance came from all sorts of places including the traditional media but if you go to the alternative journalism you will find a much better picture even if there are plenty of problems to solve in the bank to use that initiative as an example. Sadly the current Brazilian govt is but a puppet of the economic powers and started attacking the alliance as well.

    In any case, I do think we need to be very cautious about China and Russia given some of their actions. But then again wouldn't it be true to the US and Europe as well? I just wanted to throw some middle ground in the discussion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2018 @ 7:42am

    Have to disagree

    Karl, I agree with your views on most of your articles, but I gotta disagree with you here. There is no way, zero chance, that Huawei's phones are not backdoored for the benefit of the Chinese government. No, I don't have proof, but I rest assured that proof will come to light sooner or later.

    Would we allow russian phones to be sold in the US? No we would not, same reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2018 @ 9:02am

    what's wrong ?
    NSA falling behind in their spying game and need the
    field tilted in their favor ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    CrystalGallery (profile), 21 Jan 2018 @ 10:18pm

    Serious question. Is this legal? I mean the US has trade deals with China.

    It's pretty normal to say anything the government buys has to be made in America. It's not normal to say if you use any Chinese products the US government refuses to do business with you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.