While the UK intelligence community is happy to do business with Chinese telecom maker Hauwei, British politicians are listening to their increasingly McCarthyist chums in the US.
The US has been purging Hauwai from its networks because the outfit’s CEO Ren Zhengfei worked for the Chinese military several decades ago.
In the UK, common sense prevailed and Huawai had been working with the nation’s defence and spooks to make tech gear for the Queen for nearly 12 years.
Apparently that was all done without the approval of ministers who have been stunned that civil servants were not taking their orders from the US, like they were.
BT told government officials of Huawei’s interest in the contract two years before it was awarded, but the officials did not inform ministers until 2006.
That decision apparently “shocked” MPs, a report from the parliamentary intelligence and security committee said.
The language of the report does suggest that there has been a change within the UK on how safe Hauwei really is at least at a political level. What appears to be happening is that the politicians, caught short by their American chum’s determination to keep Huawei out of their networks, are blaming civil servants for not seeing the dangers which they now see.
“Such a sensitive decision, with potentially damaging ramifications, should have been put in the hands of ministers,” the committee said. “The failure … to consult ministers seems to indicate a complacency which was extraordinary given the seriousness of the issue,” it added, describing the lapse as “unacceptable”.
According to Reuters the report trots out the same old line that since China is suspected of being one of the main perpetrators of state-sponsored attacks there is a risk that Huawei might be installing back doors in its gear.
This has always been denied by Huawei and makes about as much sense as Intel doing the same thing to its chips installed in China.
Huawei has denied it has links with the Chinese government or military and has said it receives no financial support from the Chinese government. So far no one has been able to find a single example of hardware modified to allow access for Chinese spooks either.
BT has insisted that it had taken measures to ensure its infrastructure was secure.
The British government also knows that the reason it uses Huawei is because the company invests shedloads in the UK. There is a danger that if Hauwei is insulted too much, it might just take its ball back and refuse to play any longer.
George Osborne has said that it is a personal priority of his to increase trade links between the UK and China. All this is going to prove tricky if the UK slams Huawei with the same level of intensity that the US has managed.