Trump Security Adviser Issues Stark New Warning: ‘Huawei Will Target Your Citizens’—Report

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Beyond the risk of state-sponsored espionage, as I reported on December 23, a cross-party group of British politicians has written to the government to urge a delay in any 5G contract award to Huawei until the company can successfully defend allegations of involvement in the surveillance state in China’s Xinjiang region. O’Brien echoed this in his comments, describing European governments that are “more concerned about offending China and potentially losing out on some economic gain” as surprising for governments that “pride themselves on their promotion of human rights.”

In response to O’Brien’s comments, a Huawei spokesperson told me: “We’re confident the U.K. government will continue to take an objective, evidence-based approach to cyber security. Our customers trust us because we supply the kind of secure, resilient systems called for by the Nato Declaration and will continue working with them to build innovative new networks.”

Back in November, Johnson delayed any decision on Huawei until after the U.K. general election. With that now won and a sizeable political majority, the prime minister has the freedom to make a decision on Huawei without concern that it will fail to pass politically. Expect significant U.S. lobbying to continue until that’s done.

Trump Security Adviser Issues Stark New Warning: ‘Huawei Will Target Your Citizens’—Report

Forbes · by Zak Doffman · December 25, 2019

AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration has stepped up its warnings over the dangers of allowing Huawei equipment into 5G networks, as major European markets near their decisions on how to proceed. The latest messages were aimed squarely at the U.K., where the decision due to be made by the newly elected government of Boris Johnson will be highly influential across Europe and further afield.

The Chinese tech giant will “steal wholesale state secrets, Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told the Financial Times, “It is somewhat shocking to us that folks in the U.K. would look at Huawei as some sort of a commercial decision. 5G is a national security decision.”

In a twist to the usual warnings, O’Brien also cautioned that there was an implicit threat to citizen data from Huawei’s inclusion in next-generation networks. China would be able to “micro-target” individuals by gaining access to medical data transmitted over its networks. “If you get all the information on a person and then you get their genome, and you marry those two things up, and you have an authoritarian state wielding that information, that is an incredible amount of power,” he warned. “Why the U.K. would sign up for such a programme is astonishing.”

Washington has now issued multiple warnings to London over the risks it associates with Huawei, the alleged state control and espionage risk, all denied by the Chinese tech giant. That said, the stakes have been raised somewhat in the latest rhetoric. O’Brien claimed the information at risk includes “nuclear secrets or secrets from MI6 or MI5,” with the clear implication that a compromise in network security would put intelligence sharing at risk, impacting the heart of the U.K. security establishment.

The U.K. and U.S. are the cornerstone members of the Five Eyes alliance that also includes Canada, Australia and New Zealand. There is essentially an open-access agreement to share top secret collection covering defence, national security and counter terrorism. To reassure its partners, the U.K. has previously said that Huawei would not be given access to the country’s core network, the data backbone, but would be limited to the edge, the radio technology out in the field. The U.S. argues that the pervasiveness of 5G renders such a distinction irrelevant.

Earlier in the year, Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May reportedly decided to allow Huawei into the country’s non-core network, a decision that split the country’s National Security Council and which led to the sacking of Dominic Raab—the then Defence Secretary and current Foreign Secretary—for allegedly leaking the news to the press. Johnson is expected to be more hawkish than May on the issue, and to put national security considerations ahead of immediate commercial concerns. That said, there is significant lobbying within the U.K. as to the economic impact to 5G delays.

Beyond the risk of state-sponsored espionage, as I reported on December 23, a cross-party group of British politicians has written to the government to urge a delay in any 5G contract award to Huawei until the company can successfully defend allegations of involvement in the surveillance state in China’s Xinjiang region. O’Brien echoed this in his comments, describing European governments that are “more concerned about offending China and potentially losing out on some economic gain” as surprising for governments that “pride themselves on their promotion of human rights.”

In response to O’Brien’s comments, a Huawei spokesperson told me: “We’re confident the U.K. government will continue to take an objective, evidence-based approach to cyber security. Our customers trust us because we supply the kind of secure, resilient systems called for by the Nato Declaration and will continue working with them to build innovative new networks.”

Back in November, Johnson delayed any decision on Huawei until after the U.K. general election. With that now won and a sizeable political majority, the prime minister has the freedom to make a decision on Huawei without concern that it will fail to pass politically. Expect significant U.S. lobbying to continue until that’s done.

Forbes · by Zak Doffman · December 25, 2019

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