AMITIAE - Tuesday 3 December 2013

Cassandra: Huawei, Casualty, Cause and Catalyst in NSA Fallout (Updated)

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By Graham K. Rogers


Some months ago, it was reported that a number of western governments - significantly as it turns out, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, USA and UK - were warning of the risks to business and perhaps national security from Huawei installations. The Chinese, after all, are an enemy we can understand. We trust our security forces and they would not have put about these warnings if there were not some risk: there is no smoke without fire.

The fires, it appears had been set by our own security forces and they seem to have allowed much of the smoke to get into their eyes, obscuring their collective judgements.

Around the same time, separately and in unison, the 5 countries, who have been allied for a number of years in terms of security, began to make noises about the need for more powers to protect the innocent from themselves. While the USA has been all for pushing the envelope when it comes to the equation of freedom versus security, way back since the days of J. Edgar Hoover, the British government showed a remarkable level of hypocrisy (again) when the Tory party who had been vehemently against the proposed changes in legislation to allow the surveillance powers that the Labour Party was demanding, did an amazing volte face.

Ministers, once in power, are presented with unbreachable arguments that the bureaucrats have been honing for years. Behind the scenes, the same was true for the USA who do an amazing juggling act with the various amendments to the Constitution: despite small victories for the common man and the causes of Freedom, the general approach has been to err on the side of security. And if the authorities do not like a decision, they manufacture a hundred ways to go round it, if necessary lying to the Courts and to Congress about what they are really up to.

Wikileaks opened the door by a small crack, but the revelations Edward Snowden put into the public arena, that caused great embarrassment to the 5 western governments - laid on with a trowel as more and more of the deceptions became apparent - have shown the great extent that those whom we trust to protect us, will lie ostensibly while engaged in the task of protection.

While it is not OK for Huawei to have a spying capability installed in their networking hardware (and software) - and despite the protestations of the Chinese Government, no one really believes them - somehow we are surprised when it is alleged that CISCO equipment (and that of other companies) also has similar capabilities.

Snowden's revelations will not stop the spying on other countries. Nor should it. We have always spied on others (one hopes that Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK are all looking over their shoulders) and will continue to do so.

The legal means to carry out such spying mean that it is not only done, but that it is done properly. Since Echelon (and before), the 5 Allies have been collecting so much data on almost every internet transaction that, they theorise, it is possible to construct a picture of criminal intent.

Except that those with criminal intent, for the most part, are aware of the magnitude of the monitoring that goes on (Snowden did little to add to this knowledge) and cover their tracks accordingly. Osama bin Laden was caught (in part) because he did not use the Internet. Paradixically, the level of surveillance carried out has not produced a single verifiable case in which the public was protected.

The vast resources that are being thrown at problems that exist mainly in the minds of bureaucrats, could be far better utilised. The sense of intimidation that has festered since the first of Snowden's revelations, coupled with the obfuscation, lying, redefining of terms and obvious deceit of those who claim to protect us - criminal behaviour by any definition - has done a far worse job on internet freedoms than any of Huawei's alleged security holes might ever have been able to accomplish.

By one of those wonderful coincidences, as I have been preparing this article, it was revealed in an article by Dara Kerr that Huawei is to pull out of the US market.

See also, the comments by Mike Masnick (TechDirt) on NSA talking points for family members: employees were expected to update their families with some NSA propaganda over Thanks-Giving.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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