Huawei has been revealed as the subject of a US surveillance operation by classified NSA documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
According to the documents, the US government gained access to the servers at Huawei’s Shenzhen headquarters and monitored the communications of the company’s executives as part of an operation codenamed “Shotgiant”.
The primary purpose of the surveillance operation appeared to be to establish connections between Huawei and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), largely due to Western concerns over Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei’s experience as an engineer in the PLA.
In addition, Shotgiant aimed to discover hacks that would allow it to bug Huawei products, with one document reading: “Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products. We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products [to] gain access to networks of interest [around the world]”.
Huawei has been the focus of US security concerns for some time. The Chinese vendor spoke out against the leaked documents, saying that if the “actions in the report are true, Huawei condemns such activities that invaded and infiltrated into our internal corporate network and monitored our communications”.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden responded with: “We do not give intelligence we collect to US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line. Many countries cannot say the same.”
However, Hong Lei, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said: “Recently, the international 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”, he added.
Numerous US politicians have long expressed the belief that Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE could compromise American national security by providing backdoor government access to US network data via their equipment. While there is no hard evidence for such accusations, many in the US are concerned that there are links between the vendors and the government, an issue exacerbated by a lack of government transparency.
Huawei and ZTE have both denied these allegations, while the US government has never publically substantiated a claim that the vendors present a security threat.