TIME NSA Spying

Report: NSA Spied on Chinese Telecoms Giant

US President Barack Obama and his Chines
US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao hold a press conference in the East Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on Jan. 19, 2011. Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveals documents showing that U.S. secretly infiltrated Chinese telecoms firm Huawei to investigate its links to China's government, in an escalation of the 'digital cold war' between U.S. and China

A National Security Agency program spied on the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to investigate its links to the Chinese government and to gain access to company servers used by its clients around the world, according to newly leaked documents.

The latest revelations from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, provided to the New York Times and German magazine Der Spiegel, show that while U.S. government officials openly suspected Huawei of collaborating with Chinese intelligence, the NSA was covertly infiltrating the company’s servers.

The operation, codenamed “Shotgiant,”aimed to find a link between the company and China’s People’s Liberation Army, as well as ensure that the NSA could infiltrate clients of Huawai—the largest telecoms firm in the world–around the world, including targets in Iran and Pakistan.

Cybersecurity has been a key sticking point in diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China, but they generally focus on U.S. suspicions that the Chinese government and Chinese-based hackers are infiltrating U.S. government and company networks. Accusations that Huawei gives the government access to corporate and government secrets on its servers have hampered its ability to enter the U.S. market.

American officials say the NSA spying is for national security purposes only.

“We do not give intelligence we collect to U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” White House spokesperson Caitlin M. Hayden told the Times. “Many countries cannot say the same.”

[NYT]

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