Some Facts About How NSA Stories Are Reported
By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
23 Mar 2014, 6:41 AM EDT
Who created the uber-nationalistic standard that the only valid disclosures are ones involving the rights of Americans? Are we are all supposed to regard non-Americans as irrelevant? Is the NSA’s bulk, suspicionless surveillance of the private communications of hundreds of millions of human beings inherently proper simply because its victims aren’t American citizens? Even more extreme: are American journalists (and whistleblowers like Snowden) supposed to keep the public ignorant of anything and everything the US Government does to people provided those people aren’t blessed with American citizenship? Do you condemn whoever leaked the existence of top secret CIA black sites to Dana Priest on the ground that it didn’t involve violations of the rights of Americans? It makes sense that US government officials view the world this way: their function is to advance the self-perceived interests of the US government, but that’s not the role of actual journalists or whistleblowers.
The public interest from the Huawei story is obvious. It demonstrates that the NSA has been doing exactly that which the US Government has spent years vocally complaining is being done by China. While the US has been telling the world that the Chinese government is spying on them through backdoors in Huawei products, it’s actually the NSA that has been doing that. It also yet again gives the lie to the claim that the NSA does not engage in economic espionage.
It shows massive deceit and hypocrisy by US officials: with their own citizens and to the world. DOJ official Jack Goldsmith, often a government and NSA defender, understood this point perfectly, writing yesterday that “The Huawei revelations are devastating rebuttals to hypocritical U.S. complaints about Chinese penetration of U.S. networks, and also make USG protestations about not stealing intellectual property to help U.S. firms’ competitiveness seem like the self-serving hairsplitting that it is.”
Leak Shows NSA Breached Huawei’s Internal Servers, Grabbed Executive Emails And Source Code
by Tim Cushing, TechDirt
Mon, Mar 24th 2014 3:36am
As Karl Bode pointed out in an earlier story about the US government warning Americans away from Huawei network equipment, many of the Huawei spying allegations can be traced back to its main competitor, Cisco. Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel sees the NSA’s Huawei spying as little more than a way for it to protect some of its main collection points.
If there’s been no evidence uncovered that Huawei equipment is being deployed with Chinese government-friendly backdoors, then the NSA is engaged in self-serving corporate espionage, one that keeps Cisco — and consequently, the NSA — in wide circulation.
Even if you believe this is exactly the sort of thing our intelligence agencies should be doing, it’s hard to ignore the inherent hypocrisy of the government’s words and actions.
While the revelations that the NSA is surveilling a foreign company deemed untrustworthy by government officials are hardly surprising, the whole situation is tainted by the US government’s hardline against Huawei. Many accusations have surfaced over the last decade but have remained unproven, even as the US government has locked Huawei out of domestic contracts and persuaded other countries to seek different vendors. This isn’t passive monitoring being deployed to detect threats. This is an active invasion of a private company’s internal network in order to subvert its hardware and software, all of which will likely benefit its largest competitor, either directly or indirectly. The NSA isn’t Cisco’s personal army, but their mutual goals (widespread Cisco deployment) are so closely aligned, the agency might as well be.
How the NSA Deals with a Threat to Its Backbone Hegemony
Published March 22, 2014
Now, for what it’s worth, the NYT story feels like a limited hangout – an attempt to pre-empt what Spiegel will say on Monday, and also include a bunch of details on NSA spying on legitimate Chinese targets so the chattering class can talk about how Snowden is a tool of Chinese and Russian spies. (Note, the NYT story relies on interviews with a “half dozen” current and former officials for much of the information on legitimate Chinese targets here, a point noted by approximately none of the people complaining.)
But the articles make it clear that 3 years after they started this targeted program, SHOTGIANT, and at least a year after they gained access to the emails of Huawei’s CEO and Chair, NSA still had no evidence that Huawei is just a tool of the People’s Liberation Army, as the US government had been claiming before and since. Perhaps they’ve found evidence in the interim, but they hadn’t as recently as 2010.
Nevertheless the NSA still managed to steal Huawei’s source code. Not just so it could more easily spy on people who exclusively use Huawei’s networks. But also, it seems clear, in an attempt to prevent Huawei from winning even more business away from Cisco.
I suspect we’ll learn far more on Monday. But for now, we know that even the White House got involved in an operation targeting a company that threatens our hegemony on telecom backbones.