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Trump’s War On Huawei Is Part Of Something Much Larger and More Significant

Westlake Legal Group huawei-620x348 Trump’s War On Huawei Is Part Of Something Much Larger and More Significant Technology Politics International Affairs Huawei Front Page Stories Foreign Policy Featured Story executive order donald trump China Trade Talks China Allow Media Exception

IMG_1136 Huawei by A4-Nieuws, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Original

Back in January, the Trump administration took legal action against Chinese telecommunications megalith, Huawei, charging it with theft of intellectual property among other skulduggery:

A 10-count indictment, which was filed in Washington state, claims that Huawei worked for years to steal T-Mobile’s proprietary phone testing technology, known as “Tappy.” Huawei supplied phones to T-Mobile, and had access to some information about Tappy because of that relationship.

Huawei was also building its own phone-testing robot in China. Federal prosecutors claim the company repeatedly directed its own employees to gather details about how Tappy worked — a violation of the confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements it had with T-Mobile.

Employees were allegedly asked to send information such as photos, measurements and the serial numbers of various components. One employee was caught stealing one of the robot’s arms by placing it in his bag, according to court documents.

US prosecutors say that Huawei then obstructed justice when the T-Mobile, which is based in Washington, threatened to sue it.

Huawei allegedly came up with a false and misleading report about the attempts to steal Tappy technology, in which it blamed rogue employees. At the same time, the company launched a formal bonus program that rewarded employees who stole trade secrets from competitors, according to the indictment.

The government also unsealed a 13-count indictment against Huawei and Meng in Brooklyn federal court. That document details an alleged scheme by Huawei to deceive financial institutions and the US government about its business in Iran.

According to the indictment, the deception goes back to mid-2007, when Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, falsely told the FBI that the company did not violate any US export laws, and that it had not dealt directly with any Iranian company.

Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order banning the sale of Huawei equipment in the United States and forbidding US companies to sell components to Huawei.

President Trump moved on Wednesday to ban American telecommunications firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could pose a threat to national security, White House officials said, stepping up a battle against China by effectively barring sales by Huawei, the country’s leading networking company.

Mr. Trump issued an executive order instructing the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, to ban transactions “posing an unacceptable risk” but did not single out any nation or company. The action has long been expected and is the latest salvo in the administration’s economic and security battle with China. It is also the most extreme move in the Trump administration’s fight against China’s tech sector.

My gut feeling is that this is more that merely a dispute about IP theft and the Chinese using Huawei gear as a backdoor to penetrate otherwise secure government and business networks. I think, viscerally, Trump sees international trade as a field of competition as much as the Persian Gulf and the South China Sea. You either have to be seen as being in command of the situation or your rivals and competitors will run over you. This is the basis, I think, of his focus on equity in trade deals. The hit at Huawei is an attack on an arm of the Chinese government that is trying to use the openness of the West and the globalization of trade as a tool for espionage, theft, and influence peddling. Huawei might as well be part of the Chinese armed forces by its actions. This is from Henry Farrell. Farrell is professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.

1. A thread on why Trump decision to put Huawei on the entity list is a very big deal indeed, as @Dimi and others are arguing. ft.com/content/c8d6ca… . This is a far bigger step than just excluding Huawei from the US market.

2. It requires any US company that wants to supply Huawei to first ask the US government for permission. This has obvious implications for Google’s Android operating system, Qualcomm chips and a myriad of other suppliers

3. Dennis Wilder says that this is the “beginning of decoupling” in the telecommunications sector. It’s the clearest sign yet that the basic assumptions of globalization are collapsing. As @ANewman_forward and I argue, interdependence is being weaponized. https://t.co/kjovzPN1P2

4. The globalization of the 1990s massively transformed the world economy. National economic systems that had previously been separate from each other became densely interpenetrated, and deeply dependent on financial, informational and trade networks that spanned borders.

5. These networks are structurally embedded. Supply chains have been globalized, in the pursuit of economic efficiencies. It’s hard to imagine how the world economy could work without them. But the pursuit of efficiency created strategic vulnerabilities.

6. Some networks had hub structures meaning that states that could control te hub could control the network. Others relied on crucial components that were single sourced or sourced within an individual country.

7. The last decade has seen states move increasingly to exploit these vulnerabilities against others or to shore their own vulnerabilities up against outside attackers. That’s the story of the use of SWIFT against Iran, and increasingly it’s the story of fights over tech/networks

8. A world of networks built around the pursuit of economic efficiencies is becoming a world where these networks are being exploited (or at risk of being exploited) for strategic advantage.
America’s Misuse of Its Financial Infrastructure

9. The Huawei move displays both US fears about vulnerabilities, and US efforts to exploit them. The US is worried that 5G networks could compromise US communications to surveillance. US is not only moving to push Huawei out of existing markets – but to damage Huawei’s core

10. business by potentially preventing it from using core US components (such as Qualcomm chips or Android OS (it remains to be seen exactly which technologies will be listed). Chinese hawks are talking about retaliating through e.g. blocking sales of rare earths again.

11. This will also reinforce Chinese efforts to build “autonomous and controllable” technology and supply chains outside US control to decrease their vulnerability to future attack.

12. The old model of globalization is in serious trouble. The networks that tie the world economy together are being exploited for strategic gain. The US move is both a response to fears about its own vulnerabilities, and an effort to exploit China’s vulnerabilities in return.

13. The result will likely be escalation – but we don’t know for sure. We still don’t have anything that approaches a strategic analysis of this new field of politics and how it works. Historical experience provides no good recent analogies.

14. During the Cold War, the US dominated parts of the global economy and Comecon were largely disconnected, with the exception of raw commodities such as grain. Now, the economies of US, Europe, China and Russia are deeply intertwined.

15. If you want to be pessimistic, you can resort to scorpions-in-bottles analogies. If you want to be optimistic, you can point to continued shared interests that states have in avoiding major economic disruptions. The willingness of the US to push this so far and so hard

16. suggests the skeptics may find their fears justified – but we’ll be finding out. Interesting times for international political economy scholars, if frightening times for the international political economy. Finis.

This is very much in line with much of what we’ve seen from Trump. The United States that the world knew–the one with deep pockets and ready to forgive any insult–is giving way to a US that is keenly aware of its power and very transactional in its strategy. We see this with the spat with the ROK over burdensharing. The squabble with NATO over spending. Rewriting NAFTA. Tariffs. Etc. And we’re also seeing trade policy and national defense policy melding in a way we haven’t seen since Reagan tried to stop the USSR from building a gas pipeline to Western Europe.

Like what you see? Then visit my story archive.

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The post Trump’s War On Huawei Is Part Of Something Much Larger and More Significant appeared first on RedState.

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Dutch and British intel experts agree: Trump’s right about Huawei

Westlake Legal Group meng-wanzhou Dutch and British intel experts agree: Trump’s right about Huawei the netherlands The Blog Meng Wanzhou Huawei donald trump China

Yesterday, Donald Trump signed an executive order that bars the government from doing business from telecom companies considered national security threats. To no one’s great surprise, the Commerce Department quickly added Chinese telecom giant Huawei to its new “entity list” of banned companies. That move left European allies and trading partners in a tough position, CNN reported last night:

The US claims Huawei, one of China’s most important companies, poses a spying risk to Western technology infrastructure. The latest move against the firm comes amid a worsening trade war between Beijing and Washington, after talks expected to bring a breakthrough fell apart, resulting in billions of dollars in further tariffs from both sides.

While some US allies — notably Australia and New Zealand — have followed Trump’s lead on Huawei, others have been more reticent. Europe in particular is split over whether to ban the company, a market leader on 5G technology which is expected to be the lifeblood of the new economy.

The Huawei issue cuts to the heart of tensions between security and economic interests when it comes to China and Chinese influence. While many countries around the world share Washington’s suspicion — even hostility — towards Beijing, they are unwilling to take the economic hit that openly standing apart from China would entail.

That certainly provides some context to the issue, but it doesn’t address the core point. Is Huawei a security risk that enables Beijing to spy and to steal technology? Reuters passes along a report this morning from Dutch newspaper De Volksrant that The Netherlands’ intelligence service has discovered a “backdoor” in Huawei’s networking technology that has penetrated a telecom in the country already:

Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei has a hidden “backdoor” on the network of a major Dutch telecoms firm, making it possible to access customer data, newspaper De Volkskrant said on Thursday, citing unidentified intelligence sources.

The newspaper said Dutch intelligence agency AIVD was looking into whether the situation had enabled spying by the Chinese government. …

In April, the agency said it was “undesirable for the Netherlands … to depend on the hardware or software of companies from countries running active cyber programs against Dutch interests,” naming China and Russia.

Of the three large Dutch telecommunications companies, KPN and VodafoneZiggo declined to comment on the report, while T-Mobile/Tele2 said it was not aware of any AIVD investigation.

Reuters reports on its own that a former British spymaster also confirms Trump’s assessment of Huawei. Former MI-6 chief Richard Dearlove wrote in a report released today that the UK needs to rethink its decision to partner with Huawei even in the limited manner proposed by Theresa May’s government. It’s less important to get to 5G quickly than it is to make sure that the UK gets there securely, Dearlove warned:

“I very much hope there is time for the UK government, and the probability as I write of a new prime minister, to reconsider the Huawei decision,” said Richard Dearlove, who was chief of the Secret Intelligence Service from 1996 to 2004.

“The ability to control communications and the data that flows through its channels will be the route to exercise power over societies and other nations,” Dearlove wrote in the foreword to a report on Huawei by the Henry Jackson Society. …

Dearlove, who spent 38 years in British intelligence, said it was deeply worrying that the British government “appears to have decided to place the development of some its most sensitive critical infrastructure” in the hands of a Chinese company.

“No part of the Communist Chinese state is ultimately able to operate free of the control exercised by its Communist Party leadership,” said Dearlove. “We should also not be influenced by the threat of the economic cost of either delaying 5G or having to settle for a less capable and more expensive provider,” he said.

Dearlove’s warning appears more of a risk assessment, while the AIVD report looks more like a smoking gun. Either way, the risk is real enough, especially with a government in Beijing that encourages theft of intellectual property as a strategy for modernization. The efforts to sideline Huawei could be part of Trump’s trade-war strategy, with a concession to be made later, but it looks more serious than that now. The Trump strategy might be to use Huawei to permanently shift trade to prevent and punish that strategy regardless of whether tariffs come off or not.

Don’t forget about the extradition fight over Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada either. Meng was wanted in connection to Huawei’s alleged violations of sanctions on Iran and has been kept in Canada since December while she fights extradition to the US. China hasn’t forgotten about it, which is why they charged two Canadian businessmen this morning for espionage:

China on Thursday formally leveled grave espionage charges against two detained Canadians, raising the prospect of harsh punishment for the men caught in a spiraling three-way feud over the Trump administration’s treatment of the technology company Huawei.

China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that prosecutors charged Michael Kovrig with “gathering state secrets and intelligence for overseas forces” and Michael Spavor with “stealing and providing state secrets to overseas forces.” The men were charged “recently,” ministry spokesman Lu Kang said without disclosing more specific timing.

After holding Kovrig and Spavor in undisclosed locations since December, China confirmed the formal charges just as the U.S. government all but banned American companies from doing business with Chinese tech giant Huawei, a move that could badly cripple a firm considered by China to be a national symbol of industrial prowess.

In the last six months, the timing of Chinese action against Canadian citizens has reinforced suspicions that Beijing is targeting a close American ally in retaliation for what China says is an unfair American effort to hobble Huawei and jail one of its executives — a campaign that it says is aided and abetted by the Canadian government.

With Huawei getting added to the “entity list” anyway, the US might not need to extradite Meng, or at least not bad enough to keep Canada enmeshed in a vendetta. With more exposure of Huawei’s operating practices coming from non-US sources, the company’s value to Beijing will decline rapidly. Western nations will need to keep their eyes peeled for the next Huawei now, too.

The post Dutch and British intel experts agree: Trump’s right about Huawei appeared first on Hot Air.

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Our snap survey. The panel backs Williamson over May – up to a point.

Westlake Legal Group our-snap-survey-the-panel-backs-williamson-over-may-up-to-a-point Our snap survey. The panel backs Williamson over May – up to a point. ToryDiary Theresa May MP security National Security Huawei Gavin Williamson MP China

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-05-04-at-09.55.06 Our snap survey. The panel backs Williamson over May – up to a point. ToryDiary Theresa May MP security National Security Huawei Gavin Williamson MP China

We thought it would be interesting to find out what the panel thinks about Theresa May’s dismissal of Gavin Williamson.  So we inserted a question on the subject into our snap survey on yesterday’s local government elections.

Well over over two in five respondents, but not quite half, think she was wrong to do so.  Just under one in three believe she was right.  A plurality clearly think that her charge against him of leaking National Security Council discussions is unproven – if not unjustified altogether.

But with over one in five not taking a view either way, many Party members seem not to know quite what to think about the decision, at least yet.

What about the issue itself?  Over seven in ten of our respondents think that British governments should have nothing to do with Huawei at all – or at least that’s our reading of their stance.  See below.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-05-04-at-10.01.38 Our snap survey. The panel backs Williamson over May – up to a point. ToryDiary Theresa May MP security National Security Huawei Gavin Williamson MP China   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: The Williamson I got to know

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

When Gavin Williamson told a meeting of Ministry of Defence top brass that he had “made [Theresa May], so I can break her”, I doubt whether anyone in that room – let alone Williamson himself – could have foreseen that it would actually turn out to be the other way around.

Indeed, at a meeting in Downing Street on Wednesday afternoon, the Prime Minister told her Defence Secretary to “shut up and go Huawei” – or words to that effect.

Ad yet another shooting star joined that growing club of Ex-Future Prime Ministers.

It was without doubt the most brutal sacking letter issues by an occupant of Downing Street in living memory. Williamson’s reply was more measured, but full of hurt and a total lack of comprehension.

He remains adamant he wasn’t the leaker, and has refused to go quietly. The trouble is that there are few people who believe him. Circumstantially, the evidence points to him as guilty as charged – but we should bear in mind that circumstantial evidence can often be wrong. Ask Peter Mandelson. Ask Amber Rudd.

But, first, Williamson did indeed have an eleven minute telephone conversation with Steve Swinford, the journalist who wrote the National Security Council leak story, on the day of its publication.  Second, his media advisor is a former Daily Telegraph Defence Editor. Third, Williamson has a long track record of being China-sceptic. Fourth, although he is notoriously camera and microphone-shy, he is an inveterate gossip and relishes confiding in journalists.

But none of that means he can be found guilty without firm evidence, and that seems to be conspicuous by its absence here.

I wrote a five thousand word profile of Gavin Williamson for the Sunday Times last December. I didn’t know him before I was commissioned to write it. What I found was an incredibly likeable person. He seemed utterly devoted to his constituency and clearly loved doing the job at Defence.

He did tell me at one point, though, that he had also loved being Chief Whip, and would go back to the post like a shot. He had worked out by that point what his strengths were, and he clearly realised that being Chief Whip was a job he was almost born to do, and was bloody good at, whereas maybe Defence didn’t quite fit him like a hand in a glove.

He missed being in and out of Number Ten. He missed being so close to the Prime Minister. He missed her asking his advice so much. In short, he missed being a player.

Over the last year, after recovering from several high-profile gaffes, he knuckled down at Defence and scored some victories. However, Downing Street officials persisted in tearing their collective hair out over his various pronouncements, and his pivot from Remain to Leave, and his increasingly robust pronouncements on Brexit in Cabinet left them perplexed.

His relationship with Theresa May had certainly cooled, according to insiders. Perhaps this made her decision to sack him a little easier than it might have been otherwise.

I am not sure we will ever get to the truth of what exactly happened. Swinford, in theory, could come to Williamson’s rescue, if the latter wasn’t indeed the source of the leak, but it would be highly unusual for a journalist to do something like that, and it would set what might become an unfortunate precedent.

The only other way for anything to be resolved would be for the police to conduct an inquiry, and this is where Labour should concentrate their ammunition. In my view, unless there is actual physical proof, a policy inquiry is unlikely to reach an evidential bar – but politically the issue is a gift for Labour.

As for Williamson himself, he should take some advice from Andrew Mitchell, who has been through something vaguely similar. In his case, he resigned protesting his innocence over ‘Plebgate’.

That seems rather trifling, compared to the issue of leaks from the National Security Committee, but there are some parallels to be drawn. The worst thing that Williamson could do is spend the next ten years brooding over what might have been. Out of threats come opportunities, and he would do well to think on that.

– – – – – – – – – –

Talking of opportunities, let’s turn to Penny Mordaunt.

I’ve always considered her a real dark horse to succeed Theresa May, and this promotion certainly won’t do her prospects any harm at all. I’m certain that the new Defence Secretary will stand – and she could well come through the middle as everybody’s compromise candidate. There’s a lot to be said for being everyone’s second choice.

Mordaunt is a Brexiteer, although she will have some explaining to do with the ERG since, like Michael Gove, Liam Fox, Andrea Leadsom and Chris Grayling, she has dipped her hands into the Chequers blood.  But she’s popular across the parliamentary party, and I suspect that the same would apply to the voluntary party – but they need an opportunity to get to know her. This job gives her the chance to enable them to do just that.

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Risking our security. Risking our alliances. Opening our infrastructure up to China is a risk too far.

Whether you think Gavin Williamson leaked or not; whether you think such a leak (by Williamson or anyone else) was justified or no;  whether you think May was right to sack Williamson for allegedly leaking or not, the Huawei question remains unsettled.

If, as is reported, the Prime Minister hoped to “draw a line” under both the leak and the wider policy dispute by acting so firmly, that has evidently failed. Not only because the former Defence Secretary is vocally protesting his innocence while the Government is unwilling to release its evidence, but because the underlying issue which the leaker was concerned about retains its importance.

It is three and a half years since Nick Timothy warned on this site that the UK was placing itself at risk of espionage and hostile action by allowing China to gain access to its essential infrastructure, from energy generation to telecommunications. His concern went unheeded then, as the Prime Minister has ignored it from many other voices now.

So is there an issue with Huawei? Should the UK be concerned about the company?

First, let’s not make the mistake of treating this as just another private sector provider. After all, China is not just another country. Despite a degree of marketisation and the toleration of the profit motive, it remains a fundamentally authoritarian state, a rising superpower which holds that its own citizens are first and foremost bound to be obedient to the collective interest. It holds no free elections, it tolerates no internal opposition, and it operates vast abuses of human rights – most recently in the huge repression targeted at Uighurs, which includes mass detention in concentration camps for the purposes of ‘re-education’. Domestically and internationally, China is notable in viewing modern communications technology as a threat to be controlled by the state and an opportunity to pry into and restrict its citizens and rivals.

It would be naive not to recognise that any organisation flourishing in these conditions does so only because it is allowed to exist and grow by the consent of the Chinese state. The exact nature of the relationship is a chicken and egg question; what matters is the fact that major Chinese telecoms companies are based in a totalitarian state which requires obedience and is known to run extensive cyber-spying operations around the world. It is an unavoidable fact that the state in question could snuff out such companies if it wished.

So in a simple assessment of risk on a common sense basis, allowing any such provider into sensitive UK infrastructure would appear unwise. What’s more, there are reports of specific concerns about Huawei-provided devices. Bloomberg reports that Vodafone found 26 security issues with equipment from Huawei, including six “critical” and nine “major” security holes, and that these problems were found in several Western countries.

Huawei deny those claims on the basis that these are not backdoors – intentional ways in – but innocent mistakes, a mixture of oversights and legitimate diagnostic tools accidentally not removed after installation. This should be treated with some scepticism. For obvious reasons, deliberate backdoors are designed to appear inadvertent, innocent and therefore deniable – that’s far from unusual in espionage. Furthermore, the report Bloomberg has had access to includes a claim by Vodafone’s then-Chief Information Security Officer at the time that Huawei failed to honestly resolve the issues when they were discovered:

“What is of most concern here is that actions of Huawei in agreeing to remove the code, then trying to hide it, and now refusing to remove it as they need it to remain for ‘quality’ purposes…”

A third and final consideration for the UK should be the position of our closest allies on Huawei. The company is banned from government work in the US and Australia, Canada is considering such a ban, and New Zealand’s security services have forbidden Huawei components from being imported for use in 5G networks. Those four countries, along with the UK, make up the essential Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance. If our trusted allies are acting on these concerns, we should take note. What’s more, the US is so concerned about China penetrating UK communications networks via Huawei that they are threatening to withdraw intelligence-sharing if London allows the Chinese firm to take part in 5G.

This is blunt stuff, but hard to ignore. There are sensible reasons to be wary of Huawei, and China’s cyber operations, in principle and, it appears, in practice. By definition there is no way to be certain except to take a severe risk and suffer as a result – it is in the nature of managing risks that we should err on the side of caution.

Even if you are not bothered by the evidence, or by the nature and circumstance of the company in question, and think it a risk worth taking in itself, then the views of our allies should still settle the question. This is a risk too far.

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Williamson’s side of the story. Sedwill was “out to get him”.

Friends of Gavin Williamson offer his side of the story as follows.  He did speak to Steven Swinford, the Daily Telegraph journalist who wrote the story about the Huawei debate in the National Security Council, last Tuesday.  But, they say, Swinford phone him, and the discussion wasn’t about Huawei – let alone the NSC discussion about allowing the company to help build Britain’s 5G network.  “The conversation had nothing to do with national security – I can tell you that,” ConservativeHome is told.

The Williamson camp claim that Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary who undertook the leak enquiry, has had an unhappy relationship with the former Defence Secretary, and that Sedwill “was out to get Gavin”.  They say that the two got off to a bad start when Williamson clashed with the Cabinet Secretary over the National Security Capability Review.  The former wanted the defence element of the review dealt with separately – and eventually succeeded in doing so.

They go on to allege that Sedwill told a meeting of civil servants last Wednesday – the day of Swinford’s Telegraph story – that Williamson was responsible for the leak, that this pre-empted and prejudiced any enquiry, and that Sedwill consequently showed at least one private text message to him from the former Defence Secretary to third parties.

Williamson’s friends insist that the first he heard of the story was when listening to Today last Wednesday morning.  That he assumed the Cabinet Office was itself responsible.  That he told David Lidington, the Cabinet Office Minister, so at breakfast in the Commons that morning.  And that he then told staff at the Ministry of Defence both that this was his view, and that he had spoken to Swinford the previous day – but not about the NSC proceedings.

The Prime Minister apparently offered him the choice of resignation or sacking this evening – and left her own room in Downing Street to let him decide.  Williamson told her on return that he wasn’t responsible for the leak, was refusing to resign and that “he hoped she’d remember in the future that she’d fired an innocent man”.

The nub of the matter is whether one believes Williamson’s account; whether the enquiry has been properly conducted, and whether or not others who attended the NSC meeting in question – or still others who they may have spoken to – can be proven not to have been in touch with Swinford on the same day.

Common sense suggests that it will be impossible to prove that no-one other than Williamson did so, or that Swinford was not able to put his story together from a variety of sources.  The former Defence Secretary’s allies insist that “nothing would please Gavin more than if the police were called in – because then we’d be able to have a proper investigation”.  It is also being reported that the inquiry was instigated by Sedwill, not by May.

It should be added that Downing Street strongly denies that last claim, not to mention any suggestion of a vendetta, and “draws attention to the Prime Minister’s letter” – which suggests that other Cabinet Minister engaged with the enquiry with a fullness that Williamson did not, and that “the appropriate conclusion must be drawn”.

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“The Prime Minister has this evening asked Gavin Williamson to leave the Government, having lost confidence in his ability to serve in the role of Defence Secretary and as a member of her Cabinet.

“The Prime Minister’s decision has been informed by his conduct surrounding an investigation into the circumstances of the unauthorised disclosure of information from a meeting of the National Security Council.

“The Prime Minister thanks all members of the National Security Council for their full cooperation and candour during the investigation and considers the matter closed.”

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How far should Sedwill go over the Huawei leak?

‘ “This is quite ridiculous,” David Cameron snapped at ministers gathered in Britain’s modest version of the White House situation room, known as Cobra, in the depths of the Cabinet Office. “Why cannot I just order they are going to go, and I will provide a waiver and indemnity on the legalities?” ‘

We quote from the Guardian‘s account of a National Security Council meeting in 2011, and of how “the Prime Minister’s irritation was directed at Dominic Grieve” in “Britain’s modest version of the White House situation room, known as Cobra, in the depths of the Cabinet Office”.  The row was over the legality of transferring money to Libyan rebels.

Are you dissatisfied with the Guardian as a source?  In which case, let us refer you to a Times report of the same year.  “[Alan] Duncan confronted the NSC with intelligence from the oil world that hastily arranged sanctions were hurting the rebels while leaving the Libyan dictator’s war machine untouched”.

Which brings us to the current row over the leak to the Daily Telegraph of an NSC row about Huawei – and whether the Chinese company should or should not help to build Britain’s new 5G network.  The point we are making is obvious.  Contrary to some claims, leaks from the NSC aren’t new.  The question is: given that context, what should be done about this one?  Journalists and Ministers have different interests here – not only from each other but even, sometimes, among themselves.

Journalists love leaks.  At least, those who get them do.  Leaks mean stories and stories mean kudos – which Steven Swinford, who took the lead in breaking the Telegraph story, has thus gained.

But what about other journalists?  Sometimes, they take a different approach, particularly if they don’t get so many leaks themselves.  They reach instead for another sort of story – exposing the mole!  Or at least hinting at who he or she might be.  Or at the very least luring one of their colleagues to do so, in a game of grandmother’s footsteps.  The first step of the game is well-known: ask cui bono?

In this case, the beneficiary might be an unhappy civil serrvant.  Or a Special Adviser doing what his or her Minister has told them to do.  Or that SpAd doing what he thinks his Minister would want without actually having been told.  (Cabinet Ministers are not meant to discuss NSC proceedings with their SpAds, by the way)  Or a Minister who is a leadership contender seeking to do down another Minister who is a leadership contender.  It is that delicious possibility which has excited some journalists almost beyond endurance.

No to mention some Ministers, too.  Naturally, they all deplore leaks – unless, needless to say, they are leaking themselves.  And so they are currently doing, on an unprecedented scale.  Some have always briefed journalists about what happens in Cabinet – in recent times, at any rate.  What has changed is that some now do so before the meeting has even taken place, telling those the hacks in question what they propose to say before they have even said it.  It isn’t at all clear why policy discussions at the NSC are more sacronsanct than those at Cabinet.

For Ministers, read civil servants, too.  Mark Sedwill is reported to be furious about the leak.  The Cabinet Secretary is demanding that the personal e-mails and mobile phones of Cabinet Ministers as well as SpAds are checked.  We trust that he is being no less exacting about the leak in March of secret Cabinet Office documents about the preparedness of government for No Deal.

On the Huawei leak, the following applies, or should do.

First, the Government is perfectly entitled to crack down on leaks, if it wishes.  If it wants, say, to check the mobile phones of Ministers – and not simply target their SpAds pour décourager les autres – all well and good.

Second – and the point does not contradict the first – the Huawei story is a legitimate one.  It was basically the account of a policy disagreement, not of secret operations.

It follows that proportionality is required.  Had the Telegraph, say, revealed the names of any British agents who may happen to be operating  in China – not that one can imagine such a thing – government would be entitled to bring the full force of GCHQ to bear.

But the paper did nothing of the kind.  Certainly, its account will have been inconvenient for Sir Mark, as well as for the Government more broadly.  It will have wanted to present the Huawei decision as Ministers getting tough on China, by restricting the firm’s access.   After all, this is a Home Office government with a security focus.  The Prime Minister is a former Home Secretary and Sedwill a former Permanent Secretary in the department.

Instead, the Telegraph framed the story as Ministers going weak on China, carrying a quote critical of the decision from Tom Tugendhat, and others presenting the country in a negative light.

A question for Sedwill, then, is: how far does he want to go over a leak that, though rare in character, was far from exceptional?  Is it worth perhaps obtaining a Ministerial scalp over the matter, with the Government in its current condition, by ordering an enquiry more exacting than the usual one?  Should the police be called in?  As we say, a crackdown on leaks would, within sensible limits, be perfectly in order.  But with a Government so febrile, Theresa May should beware of the law of unexpected consequences.

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Adam Holloway: Huawei exercises state influence through private means. It is the East India Company of the modern age.

Six or more years ago a friend of mine was considering using Huawei’s technology in a network of undersea cables she planning to lay. She asked me what I knew of the company. I made a few calls, and this is what various friends told me over an afternoon on the phone. I guess I would summarise them as a sort of modern East India Company – the exercise of state influence through a private company, See below.

Key risks to Western interests from Huawei

  • Shut down of Strategic Infrastructure.
  • Espionage.
  • Massive and borderless theft of Intellectual Property.

Possible risks to those partnering with using Huawei equipment

  • Denial of service by US, China or other parties.
  • Possible future US or other government legislation.
  • Loss of customers.

Asssement of a former head of technology for a major US intelligence agency

“Smart people will avoid Huawei – their reputation here is tarnished.

They have made a number of attempts to partner with US firms, and their reputation stinks on Capitol Hill and with the Committee on Foreign Investment – and rightly so. They fill US subsidiaries with smiling American faces, but the senior leadership of the firm comes straight out of the People’s Liberation Army. They will be increasingly curtailed in the US because of grave concerns of back door opportunities for Chinese intelligence.

The Europeans are rather more forgiving – but the situation with Huawei in the US will only get worse. This company is 100 per cent a front for Chinese Intelligence. It is beyond vague suspicion that China is using their growing export sector to develop built in spying capabilities in US networks”.

View of senior figure close to a UK intelligence agency

“There should be no surprise that these people are offering very competitive prices and payment terms. This is a very aggressive company. We have concerns about their bona fides – if you see what I mean. They are more about taking positions to gain access than they are about worrying about profit. They will happily take losses for access, because it gives them the opportunity to spy.

You asked me what they would do in ten years time. Remember when Russia invaded Georgia? As a former bit of the Soviet Union, Georgia’s infrastructure was still controlled by Russia. So the Russians just switched it off. In the same way, in the future the Chinese could just switch off large bits of our infrastructure: even now, we can no longer rely on large chunks of our strategic infrastructure to work.

In the US, a lot of people are very wary of them. Huawei have excellent equipment, but the concerns about the company’s parentage and who supports them is considerable. In a tidy irony, in the UK, the Government’s Chief Information Officer – John Suffolk – was tasked with carrying out an enquiry into Huawei: he is now Huawei’s Global Head of Cyber Security. If that ain’t a conflict of interest, I don’t know what is!

A major concern is that when they get sufficient hold of the infrastructure we will have a real problem. When objections were made to their involvement in the UK, Huawei’s lobbyists went straight to Cabinet Ministers. Be that as it is, this remains a large Chinese company with strong links with the Chinese government.

But what could this mean if future for Western companies who partner with them or use their equipment? Customers could desert them in droves. Companies who do their due diligence would realise that running things through Huawei pipes could mean loss of intellectual property. The risk from this company goes well beyond conventional espionage or shut down of strategic infrastructure.”

Assessment of a former Huawei employee

“The points you make about threats to strategic infrastructure, and about espionage and intellectual property are genuine concerns. Indeed, Australia in effect banned them from competing for their National Broadband Network last year!

The US is concerned for security and commercial reasons. The UK is a bit more relaxed, and now have a security cell that crawls over Huawei stuff and says it is OK. When the stuff passes it is used by companies like BT. But I say this: if a 16 year old with Aspergers can break into US Department of Defence computers, what is to stop a very clever Chinese company putting in trap doors that they can activate whenever they want? All any tester can ever do is say that we have not found anything: they can never say there is nothing there.

In 2010, the Chairman of the [UK’s] Joint Intelligence Committee and Head of Intelligence Analysis, Sir Alex Allan, circulated a memo to Ministers. It warned that China was involved in electronic espionage on a grand scale and may have gained the ability to shut-down Britain, halting critical services. So there is real concern. Huawei make a big deal about being a private company. But in reality this is nonsense: if the Chinese government ask them to jump, they will ask “How high and how often?”. For heaven’s sake, the Chinese government probably funds them.

But even if you take the most benign view – if, for some reason the Chinese government, saw it as advantageous for a network to fail for military, political or commercial reason, Huawei would do it.

China sees Huawei and all their major companies as vanguards of their political and economic power. Control of communications networks gives them huge power. This is all part of China’s resurgence on the world’s stage – and they are doing what we did 300 years ago. What was good for the East India Company was good for Great Britain.

Any service that is important to the US – including the commercial, like banking – using Huawei equipment could be vulnerable to the edicts of future US governments. If you are in a business critical area using this kit, the US might decide not to allow you to play.”

Note on Major Ren Zhangfei.

Huawei was founded by Ren Zhangfei, a former Peoples Liberation Army Major, in 1988. Ten years earlier, he swore loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party, despite his parents connections to the Kuomingtang. In the military, he had worked in the PLA’s Research Institute as a military technologist where he had been responsible for a number of unknown technology achievements.

As the Congressman Mike Rogers, a former FBI agent and now Chairman of the US House Permanent Committee on Intelligence, said last year of Ren’s background: “That’s what we would call a clue”.

It is claimed that early Research and Development funding came directly from the Chinese Government. The company’s share ownership remains opaque. Ren was qrecently elected a member of the 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

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