Some time back, I started to write a post for The BFD, grudgingly ceding credit where it was due to the Ardern government for banning Huawei from New Zealand’s 5G network.

“That was a wise decision”, I began to write. Huawei is notorious not just for the sort of intellectual property theft that is endemic among Chinese companies, but for its ties to the communist regime. The United States, along with other partners in the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing network such as Australia, are adamant that Huawei is complicit in Beijing’s espionage regime and that allowing Huawei access to nations’ 5G networks is an unacceptable security risk.

Ardern was right, I was going to say, for holding firm.

But, I should have known that “Ardern” and “holding firm” are phrases that don’t belong together, except as punch-lines. In the time it took me to put the post aside and go off to make a cup of tea, the Ardern government folded like a glossy magazine cover.

All the hugs and baby photos in the world, though, aren’t going to make security concerns over Huawei vanish.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, the U.S. government officials are claiming Huawei, a phone and telecommunications company with ties to the Chinese government, has the ability to spy on users of mobile phone networks employing Huawei equipment. The claim comes after years of accusations from the U.S. government and repeated denials from Huawei.[…]

Last year the U.S. and Huawei traded barbs over the U.S.’s concerns and Huawei’s alleged spying, fraud, and violation of international sanctions against Iran. The furor led to both Australia and New Zealand [temporarily!] banning the use of Huawei equipment in telecommunication networks.

However some of the largest telecommunication networks in the world, including ones owned by U.K. based Vodafone, and the German Deutsche Telekom AG, currently incorporate Huawei equipment.

Oh, well, if Germany does it, it must be OK. After all, look at their long record of promoting peace and security in Europe over the past century or so.

U.S. officials now claim Huawei has included backdoors into the equipment that effectively allows it to access the same data law enforcement can access. Typically these backdoors, known as “lawful interception interfaces” are used exclusively by law enforcement who must provide warrants to gain access. The equivalent of the old school wiretap, these lawful interception interfaces gives the user of the interface access to any data transmitted over the network, including phone calls and text messages.

Naturally, equipment providers aren’t supposed to have access and are supposed to build the equipment in such a way that they can’t gain access down the line. But the U.S. accuses Huawei of doing just that.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. took its latest proof to closed-door meetings with officials and telco companies in the U.K. and Germany. A confidential memo written by the German Foreign Office and acquired by the Wall Street Journal characterises the proof presented in the meeting as a “smoking gun.”

The US is giving no signs of backing down in this dispute and neither they should. As such, the Huawei issue is threatening to break up the Five Eyes network. The Johnson government inexplicably decided to allow Huawei in Britain’s 5G network; now New Zealand has caved. Canada is coming under heavy pressure, with Beijing arbitrarily detaining several Canadian nationals in China. Beyond Five Eyes, other Western nations like Germany are being bullied by China into throwing open their communications networks to Beijing’s technological sleeper agent.

China is playing a long game of divide and conquer.

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