Where is the Smoking Gun on Huawei?

I often get the question “Where is the smoking gun on Huawei”? I usually respond that it depends on the definition of a “smoking gun”. When one looks at the public evidence and contextual data (i.e. the PRC legal system, Huawei court documents, CCP organizational structure) it becomes apparent there is more than a smoking gun.  It is more like being on a battlefield surrounded by smoking guns.  Clear and convincing evidence shows it can be a security risk for any country employing Huawei or using its technology depending on that country’s specific national security and commercial interests. For the security interests of the United States it is clearly a problem.

Huawei: what we know:

  1. Huawei translated means “To Serve China”
  2. Huawei founder and director Ren Zhengfei was a senior official in the PLA. He is a billionaire and has been photographed with Xi Jinping and other senior Chinese leaders.
  3. US company Cisco brought Huawei into arbitration for stealing its source code. The Neutral Expert’s Final Source Code Report, dated June 15, 2004 states:
  • From a section entitled Comparison of Cisco STRCMP and Huawei’s [CODE NAME REDACTED]: “It must be concluded that Huawei misappropriated this code.
  • From a section entitled Functionality: “Because of the many functional choices available to the Huawei developers (including three of their own routines), the fact that they made the same functional choice as Cisco would suggest access to the Cisco code even if the routines had implementation differences.”
  •  From a section entitled Comments and White Space: “The exactness of the comments and spacing not only indicate that Huawei has access to the Cisco code but that the Cisco code was electronically copied and inserted into [Huawei’s] [CODE NAME REDACTED].”
  • From a section entitled Findings: “The nearly identical STRCMP routines are beyond coincidence. The Huawei [CODE NAME REDACTED]routine was copied from the strcmp routine in Cisco strcmp.c file.”
  • Finally, the Neutral Expert’s conclusion: “Cisco’s source code has been used in Huawei’s version [CODE VERSION REDACTED] implementation of its Versatile Routing Platform. Two library files from Cisco’s Internetwork Operating System were compromised. Huawei has replaced the library code in VRP version [CODE VERSION REDACTED] but the replacement methodology was flawed and must be redone. A proper procedure will be simple and straightforward.

4. On February 28, 2007, a Motorola engineer named Hanjuan Jin was arrested by customs agents at O’Hare Airport. She had $30,000 in cash and 1,000 thumb drives containing Motorola documents marked “confidential and proprietary”. She had a one-way ticket to Beijing. Subsequent investigations by the FBI revealed that Jin was simultaneously working for another company, Lemko.  According to court documents filed in Chicago by prosecutors in 2010, Lemko was founded by Motorola engineer Shaowei Pan in 2004, shortly after Pan met with Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei on a trip to China. Lemko’s goal was to build wireless technology for Huawei based on Motorola technology. Pan and Huawei Chairman Ren were in contact through email.

5. In 2010, the press reported the National Security Agency penetrated Huawei’s networks.

6. In 2012, The congressional House Committee on Intelligence investigated Huawei. The Congress determined Huawei was not forthcoming and provided inconsistent information.

  • On its support to PLA and MSS. Huawei claimed providing such information would violate state secrets. It refused to provide any information other then saying only it had normal business relationships.
  • On role of Huawei internal Communist Party Committee – no comment
  • On relationship with government entities including government support – no comment
  • On relationship between Huawei USA and the parent Shenzhen Company – no comment
  • On violating US law (immigration and IP) – denial

7. In 2013, The U.K. Ministry of Defense produced a report warning of espionage threat from Huawei

8. In January 2018, French newspaper Le Monde Afrique reported that the African Union’s computer system was compromised. The newspaper, citing multiple sources, said that for five years, between the hours of midnight and 0200, data from the AU’s servers was transferred more than 8,000km away – to servers in Shanghai. This had allegedly continued for 1,825 days in a row. Le Monde Afrique reported that it had come to light in 2017, when a conscientious scientist working for the AU recorded an unusually high amount of computer activity on its servers during hours when the offices would have been deserted. Le Monde Afrique also reported that microphones and listening devices had been discovered in the walls and desks of the building, following a sweep for bugs.

9. In 2018 and 2019 Directors of FBI, CIA, and NSA publicly warn Americans about espionage threat from Huawei. Snowden leaked documents showing NSA had penetrated Huawei.

10. In 2014, 2015, and 2017, the Chinese Communist Party made public requirements that all Chinese citizens and companies must collaborate in gathering intelligence.

  • Article 22 of the 2014 Counter-Espionage Law (反间谍法) states that during the course of a counter-espionage investigation, ‘relevant organisations and individuals’ must ‘truthfully provide’ information and ‘must not refuse’.
  • According to Article 7 of China’s National Intelligence Law (国家情报法)“Any organisation and citizen shall, in accordance with the law, support, provide assistance, and cooperate in national intelligence work, and guard the secrecy of any national intelligence work that they are aware of [emphasis added]. The state shall protect individuals and organisations that support, cooperate with, and collaborate in national intelligence work.”
  • The implementing regulations, released in November 2017, clarified the law’s provisions: When State Security organs carry out the tasks of counter-espionage work in accordance with the law, and citizens and organisations that are obliged to provide facilities or other assistance according to the law refuse to do so, this constitutes an intention to obstruct the state security organs from carrying out the tasks of counter-espionage work according to law.

11. In 2014 (and 2019), T-Mobile (and then the DoJ in a criminal case 2019) accused Huawei Device USA and Huawei Technologies Co. LTD, a China company, of stealing its telephone testing technology. Huawei used that stolen technology to develop and improve its own testing robot, which it uses for its own benefit. Huawei abused its relationship as a phone handset supplier for T-Mobile to obtain access to T-Mobile’s robot and, in violation of several confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements, copied the robot’s specifications and stole parts, software, and other trade secrets.

After stealing T-Mobile’s technology, employees of Huawei tried to conceal their theft, but were caught on CCTV cameras and discovered by other means (DoJ released telephone transcripts and email exchanges with Huawei China). Huawei initially tried to cover up its actions, but ultimately admitted that its employees misappropriated parts and information about T-Mobile’s robot in coordination with Huawei R&D so that Huawei could build and improve its own testing robot.

12. In 2018, the Polish government arrested Huawei Sales Director in Poland Weijiang Wang for espionage.

13. In 2018, the US brought charges and requested extradition of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou for violating US law by conspiring to defraud US Banks and ship equipment to Iran.

14. In 2018, Australia and New Zealand ban Huawei from 5G network.

15. In 2018, German company SolarEdge Technologies, Inc. filed a lawsuit for theft of intellectual property and patent infringement against Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd., in the Regional Court of Mannheim in Germany. The suit accuses Huawei of copying Solar Edge’s innovative DC optimized inverter technology

16. In 2019, the US brought criminal charges against Huawei for the 2014 theft of T-Mobile’s technology, bank fraud, and illegal exports to Iran.

17. In 2019 Bloomberg reported that over the past decade, Huawei workers have teamed with members of various organs of the People’s Liberation Army on at least 10 research endeavors spanning artificial intelligence to radio communications. The joint research projects were identified in an online Chinese database designed to detect student plagiarism (https://www.cnki.net/) The PLA and Huawei denied it. Two of the ten projects were as follows:

  • A joint effort with the investigative branch of the Central Military Commission to extract and classify emotions in online video comments
  • An initiative with the elite National University of Defense Technology to explore ways of collecting and analyzing satellite images and geographical coordinates.

18. In 2019, scholars Christopher Balding and Donald Clarke publish “Who Owns Huawei?” Clarke and Balding reviewed a variety of Chinese media reports about Huawei’s more than 20-year history, corporate records, and legal disputes concerning Huawei employees, and found a surprising amount of agreement on these points:

  • a. Huawei is not an employee company – Employees only own “virtual shares” that allow for profit sharing.
  • b. The Huawei operating company is 100% owned by a Huawei Investment & Holding Company and trade Union Committee

a. 1% is owned by Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei

b. 99% is owned by the “trade union committee”

c. Almost nothing is known about the operations, founding documents, or ownership of the trade union committee

d. The CCP controls and directs Trade Unions in the PRC.

19. In Sept 2019, U.S. prosecutors charged Chinese professor Bo Mao with fraud for allegedly taking technology from Cnex Labs, a California based company to benefit Huawei.

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