Media Link: More on Huawei and the GCSB.

datePosted on 14:25, October 14th, 2012 by Pablo

It must be the season for espionage scandals and potential threats. The NZ media has taken an interest so I get to play talking head.

2 Responses to “Media Link: More on Huawei and the GCSB.”

  1. Chris on October 15th, 2012 at 21:37

    Paul, I just now (Monday night) watched your TV3 interview – very interesting with informed analysis. Thank you.

    Like you, I agree there is no question that Huawei are beholden to the PRC government and consequently will cooperate with Chinese Intelligence requests.

    But to keep this in context, there has been no similar discussion about the US company Motorola, which has been around for more than 80 years.

    Like Huawei, this company sells switches and telecommunications equipment around the world, but nobody has made the (somewhat hysterical) spying claims about Motorola in the way they have about Huawei. I think it would be naive to think the US Government has not, for many decades, used Motorola to spy on other countries.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t trust Huawei, but I also think a similar level of suspicion should have been directed at the US-owned Motorola. That it hasn’t, lends support to the possibility that current US claims against Huawei are also based on economic protectionist concerns, and not solely security ones.

  2. Pablo on October 16th, 2012 at 15:26

    Chris:

    It is clear that in the past US firms worked with the US government to jointly promote US national interests (as defined by the corporate and political elites). The ITT involvement in Allende’s overthrow is proof of that, as is United Brands involvement in the 1954 coup the overthrew Arbenz in Guatemala (there are many more). I would therefore not be surprised if Motorola or Cisco strategically placed devices in foreign telecommunication systems that the US government felt provided a political, diplomatic, military or commercial benefit. That is less likely now than in previous decades due to the proliferation of signals intercept technologies and counter-measures in both the public and private sectors.

    However, let’s be clear on one thing. Any signals intelligence collection done by Western agencies in New Zealand, be it on citizens, residents or in the larger region of which NZ is part and for which it is responsible when it comes to the intelligence-sharing division of labor, is done with the consent and connivance of the NZ government and GCSB/SIS. That is part of the gentlemen’s agreement that governs Western intel sharing protocols.

    On the other hand the PRC (as well as Russia, India and other emerging powers) does not have the benefit of such networks and thus has to engage in the non-consensual, surreptitious monitoring of signals in countries and regions in which its strategic interests are at stake.

    That is where the “back door” problem emerges because Western sigint is collected via the host country’s front door ( at least when it comes to domestic spy agencies doing the work of the larger network), whereas the PRC has to rely on its own skills and assets to get the job done.

    Interestingly, emerging powers such as India and Brazil have been selectively invited into the Western intelligence-sharing networks. This was always the case in a limited way, such as during the Cold War when specific national objectives converged (such as the US and Latin American spy agencies sharing data on leftist groups and armed movements). But the signals and technical intelligence sharing component of these relationships has been expanded in recent times. The same cannot be said for the PRC, Russia, Iran, North Korea and a host of other states deemed as rivals or suspect by the West. They must rely on themselves to get out and obtain strategically important information.

    For countries with great power ambitions, this must be done. A country cannot be a great power without a robust intelligence collection capability, and if that country is not part of a larger network than it must work doubly hard to project power via the expansion of its foreign intelligence collection capability. It is not a matter of choice but a matter of necessity.

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