Huawei accused of spying for China by former CIA boss

Late last year, allegations had surfaced regarding Chinese handset makers ZTE and Huawei, with claims being tossed around that they were spying on behalf of the Chinese government. Both makers rejected the claims, and Huawei went on to offer unrestricted access to its software code in an effort to prove its innocence. Nearly a year later, and now former CIA boss Michael Hayden has spoken out, stating that Huawei did provide information to the Chinese government.

On October 17, a source had cropped up over at Reuters claiming that a White House review in the matter found no evidence indicating that Huawei was spying for China. The probe, according to the sources, had found risky vulnerabilities with the maker's products, but no evidence that espionage was taking place. It was never specified whether those vulnerabilities were believed to be intentional.

All was quiet on the matter for awhile, but now former CIA boss Michael Hayden has spoken up about the issue in a lengthy interview with the Australian Financial Review. When asked specifically about whether he'd ever had any "direct exposure" with Huawei, Hayden responded:

Two or three years ago Huawei was trying to establish a pretty significant footprint here in the United States. And they were trying to get people like me – as the former head of NSA and the CIA – to endorse their presence in the US. To serve on their local board, or to have some other kind of commercial relationship with them.

I reviewed Huawei's briefing paper, which said all the right things. One could almost honestly judge that were actually trying to genuinely put my mind at ease.

But God did not make enough briefing slides on Huawei to convince me that having them involved in our critical communications infrastructure was going to be okay. This is not blind prejudice on my part. This was my considered view based on a four-decade career as an intelligence officer.

My conclusion was that, "No, it is simply not acceptable for Huawei to be creating the backbone of the domestic telecommunications network in the United States, period." And frankly this is where I think the state has a role to play – to ensure we don't make decisions that compromise the foundations of our national security.

Following a brief discussion about the telecommunications industry, Hayden was asked outright whether he felt Huawei was a threat to the security of the United States and Australia, he said that he does. He also states that he believes there is "hard evidence" showing that the maker has engaged in espionage for China. He says it is his belief that, at a minimum, Huawei provided China with "intimate and extensive knowledge" on the telecommunications systems it works with.

When asked if he knew of any instances of backdoors and other specific things, he repeatedly claimed being unable to provide answers and direct knowledge. What he does reveal, however, is very interesting, not only the topic of Huawei, but also of other recent happenings, including the PRISM leak and how it is viewed from someone who was so deeply entrenched within the system. You can read the entire interview yourself, which is fairly long, over at the AFR.

VIA: Financial Times

SOURCE: Australian Financial Review