The US National Security Agency monitored communications of top Huawei executives looking for evidence of ties to the Chinese government and military.
Documents leaked by whistle blower Edward Snowden revealed that the US intelligence agency operated a surveillance programme, dubbed Shotgiant, from 2007. The programme focused on establishing whether the Chinese manufacturer had ties within the Chinese government and military.
According to a report in the New York Times today (24 March) the programme aimed to tap into Huawei’s extensive networks, enabling it to monitor communications of Huawei customers in other countries, including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya, and Cuba.
The documents do not confirm any ties between Huawei and the Chinese government and military.
One leaked NSA slide from a 2010 presentation on the operation states: ‘If we can determine the company’s plans and intentions, we hope that this will lead us back to plans and intentions of the (People’s Republic of China).’
Another said: ‘Many of our targets communicate over Huawei produced products, [and] we want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products.’
The US Government blocked Huawei’s attempts to expand its business in the US in 2012. A Congressional report at the time said Huawei and another Chinese company could ‘undermine core US national-security interests.’
Former NSA chief Michael Hayden in 2013 accused the company of spying for Beijing, saying it at least provided Chinese officials an ‘intimate and extensive knowledge of the foreign telecommunications systems.’
A US-based Huawei executive, William Plummer, said: ‘Huawei condemns the infiltration of corporate networks, the monitoring of private communications and the theft of confidential product information, all the more so when the intent of such theft is to abuse that confidential information to disrupt and exploit other networks.'
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei also objected to the reported surveillance operation. He said: ‘We are extremely concerned about the relevant report. Recently, the media has put out a lot of reports about the eavesdropping, surveillance and stealing of secrets by the United States of other countries, including China. China has already lodged many complaints with the United States about this. We demand that the United States makes a clear explanation and stop such acts.’
The White House National security Council refused to comment on the specifics but a spokeswoman said: 'We do not give intelligence we collect to U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line. Many countries cannot say the same.'