Countering China’s cellphone espionage offensive


When I heard the news of the arrest in Canada of Wanzhou Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer, my thoughts turned to Al Capone.
Capone was targeted for running Chicago’s underworld but was ultimately brought down for tax evasion. Canadian authorities detained Meng on what appears to be Huawei’s evasion of US sanctions against Iran.
These are serious allegations, but US intelligence agencies have an even greater concern: that China’s largest telecom company will allow the Chinese state to monitor the electronic communications of anyone using Huawei technology.
This is why leaders of US spy agencies in February urged Americans not to use Huawei or ZTE phones. This is why Australia effectively banned Huawei from helping build its 5G wireless network this year.
Concern about Huawei spying is also why, in October, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mark Warner of Virginia warned Canada’s prime minister that Canada’s participation in joint intelligence activities with the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand may be curtailed if Canada allows Huawei to help build or maintain the country’s 5G wireless network.
In some ways these concerns about Huawei are old news. In 2012, the House Intelligence Committee released a comprehensive report on Huawei and ZTE that concluded these companies would give China’s military and intelligence agencies access to the US telecommunication network.