Verizon Folds To Government Pressure To Blacklist Huawei Without A Shred Of Public Evidence

from the blacklisted dept

Earlier this month, AT&T cancelled a smartphone sales agreement with Huawei just moments before it was to be unveiled at CES. Why? Several members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees had crafted an unpublished memo claiming that Huawei was spying for the Chinese government, and pressured both the FCC and carriers to blacklist the company. AT&T, a stalwart partner in the United States' own surveillance apparatus was quick to comply, in part because it's attempting to get regulators to sign off on its $86 billion acquisition of media juggernaut Time Warner.

But Verizon has also now scrapped its own plans to sell the company's smartphones based on those same ambiguous concerns:

"Verizon Communications Inc. has dropped all plans to sell phones by Chinese manufacturer Huawei Technologies Co., including the new Mate 10 Pro, under pressure from the U.S. government, according to people familiar with the matter... Huawei devices still work on both companies’ networks, but direct sales would’ve allowed them to reach more consumers than they can through third parties."

The problem? There's no publicly-available evidence that Huawei is spying for the Chinese government after more than a decade of hunting for it. Similar breathless hysteria over Huawei's connection to the Chinese government surfaced in 2011, prompting numerous investigations into the claim. One 18-month investigation found absolutely no evidence that Huawei was spying on American citizens for the Chinese government. One source at the time explained the investigation this way when asked about it by Reuters:

"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."

Again, while it's possible that Huawei helps the Chinese government spy, a decade of hunting has resulted in zero publicly-available evidence proving it. And the evidence that does exist tends to suggest that this is little more than the same kind of protectionism the United States frequently accuses China of. And much of the hysteria surrounding Huawei's role as a Chinese spy tends to originate with companies like Cisco which simply don't want the added competition, as this 2012 Washington Post Report observed:

"What happens is you get competitors who are able to gin up lawmakers who are already wound up about China," one source told the The Washington Post. "What they do is pull the string and see where the top spins."

It's apparently easy to get cash-compromised or just plain gullible lawmakers all hot and bothered on this subject. Ignored of course is the U.S. government's own bad behavior on this front, whether we're talking about using AT&T to hoover up every shred of data that touches its network in violation of the law, or the NSA's own attempts to hack into Huawei, steal source code, then embed backdoors into Huawei gear. Similarly ignored is the fact that Chinese hardware already exists in everything from U.S.-made network gear to poorly-secured internet of things devices, creating ample surveillance opportunities already.

Again, that's not to say that it's impossible Huawei aids the Chinese government, but despite a decade of breathless face-fanning there's been little to no hard evidence that justifies this kind of blackballing. And what evidence that does exist indicates that Cisco, AT&T, Verizon, the NSA, and most of the folks beating the drum to blacklist Huawei have less than zero credibility when it comes to determining who's trustworthy in the first place.

Filed Under: china, evidence, protectionism
Companies: huawei, verizon


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  1. identicon
    Christenson a, 2 Feb 2018 @ 9:11am

    Re: Re:

    Just why is it VERIZON’s choice???
    Free market. My foot!

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