The US really fears Huawei
The American guests at the Munich Security Conference, Democrats and Republicans, surprisingly agreed on one topic: the loud warning against the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. Opposition leader Nancy Pelosi said it was about choosing between "authoritarianism and democracy". And US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper even used the big stage to declare that this matter could "ultimately endanger the most successful military alliance in history, NATO."
More is not possible. The USA is trying with all its might to get the federal government to forego Chinese technology when expanding the new 5G mobile network. A lot depends on the German decision. Since Britain has not bowed to US pressure, the Trump administration fears that more and more European governments will not follow their course.
According to information from, in the corridors of the security conference Süddeutscher Zeitung, NDR and WDR, however, a whole different Huawei story the main topic. It deals with the suspicion that the US government is now increasing the pressure on Berlin with unfair means. With unverifiable, possibly even false, allegations against Huawei. A "Smoking Gun", which was presented at first only in confidence and then semi-officially via the US media, was in fact not such a thing. A senior German government official even spoke of "propaganda". "There is no smoke coming out of the smoking gun," explained another.
It is about a warning that a high-ranking US delegation brought to the German government last December. Matthew Pottinger, the Deputy National Security Advisor to President Trump, Joshua Steinman, the "Special Assistant Cyber", and representatives from the FBI's counterintelligence had traveled. They met with representatives of the German secret services and various ministries and presented alleged evidence that China's security apparatus is already using Huawei technology for espionage. Cases were listed in which, for example, industrial espionage was carried out. The Americans also reported that Chinese espionage technology had been discovered near nuclear weapon bases. Installed in transmission masts from Huawei.
Another warning was particularly explosive: The Americans are said to have claimed that there is an interface in the components of the Chinese company, which are also used in many German telecommunications networks, through which extensive data can be fished. Huawei allegedly used that special precaution, of all things, which is intended in the systems to enable local security authorities to carry out legal surveillance measures. Or to put it another way: China can tap phones and read text messages just like the German police - just secretly.
The Foreign Office made a note of the meeting with the US delegation. It said: "At the end of 2019, US intelligence information was passed on to us, according to which Huawei was demonstrably working with China's security authorities ('smoking gun')." After the confidential disclosure came the public reproach. He stood in Wall Street Journal, with quotes from Robert O'Brien, Trump's National Security Advisor. "We have evidence that Huawei is able to stealthily access sensitive and personal information in systems that they sell and operate around the world," said O'Brien. Huawei immediately denied it, calling the allegations untrue.
It is now clear that hardly anyone in Germany at least believes the US claim - neither the industry nor the government, not even the secret services, although they themselves are campaigning for Huawei to be excluded from the 5G expansion. There is no conclusive evidence that the said interface could actually be misused by Huawei - or even is. "That doesn't convince us," German government representatives told their US colleagues on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
Last week, the US government’s alleged "smoking gun" was again a topic in the Bundestag. In the Digital Agenda Committee, representatives of the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior made presentations and reported to the MPs about the warnings from the USA - and their assessments. The meeting was classified as "secret". Participants say that the information was not really "illuminating". There remained great doubts as to whether espionage was actually taking place via alleged backdoors in Huawei technology.
However, this story has not changed the widespread skepticism about whether Huawei should participate in the 5G expansion. "The federal government must not be naive or gullible about the motives behind the US warnings," says the chairman of the Digital Agenda committee, FDP politician Manuel Höferlin. "The warnings do not change my own assessment - especially with regard to Huawei - however. Based on the experience of recent years, it is clear that Chinese providers are not trustworthy and reliable partners in the 5G expansion, but an incalculable risk for IT security in Germany . "
Despite repeated requests, the US government has not provided any further evidence
In fact, there are said interfaces for monitoring communication in practically all networks. Manufacturers must install them so that police and public prosecutors can carry out wiretapping operations after judicial approval. According to the US government, however, Huawei should be able to read data without the knowledge of the network operator.
After the USA raised the allegations for the first time, Telekom told the federal government that such data access was simply impossible. Already when the networks were set up, the vulnerability of this point was fully aware, which is why the interface is controlled via a separate network. The servers are in a high-security area. And the technology for this separate network does not come from China, but from the Utimaco company in Aachen. If the Chinese had built a back door into their components and software, this would be understandable - because the control commands entered would be logged.
It is undisputed that the US with its secret services has special expertise in the cyber sector. Some of the things they know the Germans don't know. But despite repeated requests, the US government has provided no further evidence to support its claim. Instead, the US continues to put pressure on Huawei. Huawei not only repeatedly violates US sanctions against North Korea and Iran, but also persistently engages in industrial espionage.
The US government is therefore increasing the pressure on countries like Germany not to cooperate with Huawei. This was made clear again on Monday night by a threat that apparently began directly with the US President. Donald Trump just got him out of the Air Force One called ", wrote the US ambassador to Berlin, Richard Grenell, on Twitter. Trump had instructed him to make something clear:" Every nation that decides to use an untrustworthy 5G supplier is putting our intelligence information at risk pass it on at the highest level. "
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