thieves (and mass murderers) fall out

Intelligence Spats: Australia, Britain and Huawei
Binoy Kampmark, Off-guardian, Feb 19 2020

A note of fraternal tension has been registered between the UK and Australia. It began with Britain’s decision to permit China’s technology giant Huawei a role in the construction of the country’s 5G network. While the decision is qualified to non-core functions, as UK boxtops term it, the irritations to Pindostan and, it follows, Australia, have been far from negligible. Pindo Congress critturs have been clear that letting Huawei into the stables of security risks future trade deals. Pompeo has been equally insistent on the dangers on his visit to the UK, saying among other things:

When you allow the information of your citizens of the national security information of your citizens to transit a network that the Chinese Communist Party has a legal mandate to obtain, it creates risk.

At the MSC, Esper warned:

Reliance on Chinese 5G vendors could render our partners critical systems vulnerable to disruption, manipulation and espionage.

As for Trump, the words “apoplectic” and “fury” figured in responding to the UK decision. Australian boxtops have relished their role in telling the old, long-in tooth Mother Country off. Simon Gilding, director of the ASD till December, wrote in The Strategist:

5G decisions reflect one of those quietly pivotal moments that crystallise a change in world affairs. The UK is putting its faith in a flawed and outdated cyber-security model, to convince themselves that they can manage the risk that Chinese intelligence services could use Huawei’s access to UK telco networks to insert bad code.

The British decision had been “disappointing, doing the wrong thing” on the technology. For instance, it had not considered Australian testing in the field. He recalled:

I was part of the team in the ASD that tried to design a suite of cyber-security controls that would give the government confidence that hostile intelligence services could not leverage their national vendors to gain access to our 5G networks. Measures of mitigation were designed with the express purpose of preventing a state actor from gaining access to the networks. All failed.

The UK government has been attempting to reassure the “Five Eyes” that their security concerns are unjustified. Raab spent a good deal of his time during this month’s visit to Canberra attempting to assuage members of the Federal Parliament Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. That effort seemed to fall flat. In a report in the SMH, Deputy Intelligence Committee Chair and Labor MP Anthony Byrne was irate, notably at Raab’s response that the Huawei decision was a “technical” if “difficult” matter, but hardly political. Byrne is reported to have asked of Raab:

How would you feel if the Russians laid down infrastructure in your own networks? That’s how we feel about Huawei.

Officially, Byrne gave the impression that things had gone rather well in “a full and frank discussion regarding 5G, trade and strategic challenges.” Privately, that same Byrne was cocksure, daring, even rude. According to the source reported in the SMH, He basically said:

I’ll raise you my ASD against your GCHQ.

China, he argued, had become an “existential” threat to Australia, being both its largest trading partner and most formidable “security threat.” Few others were privy to the discussions that took place between Raab and various Australian parliamentarians. Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee’s Liberal MP Andrew Hastie was present, as was Foreign Affairs Committee chair, Liberal senator David Fawcett. The other person to bear witness to discussions was the UK High Commissioner Vicki Treadell. For Treadell, the matter was obvious. Someone in the meeting had ratted. As the ABC subsequently found out, “measured” and “stern” letters were duly sent from the High Commissioner’s Office to both committee chairs chiding them for the leaks. Despite failing to confirm the existence of such letters, the UK Commission being supposedly “unable to comment on private briefings, or on any information pertaining to these private briefings”, the shells had been fired. Feeling put out, Parliament’s intelligence and security committee cancelled a planned visit to the UK scheduled to take place in March, preferring the more reliable, anti-Huawei environs of Washington. The official, anodyne explanation for the cancellations was put down to advice given by Australia’s High Commissioner in the UK “as he advised that counterpart committees in the UK have not yet reconstituted following the UK’s December election.” The reasons given to the ABC by a member of the intelligence committee proved more forthright:

If this is the attitude of the British, we may as well visit the Pindos, who we can trust more on this stuff.

A right royal spat, indeed, and one not without its juvenile connotations.

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