The US Five Eyes/Huawei threat

It looks like the US is trying to play hardball on deterring Five Eyes allies from using Huawei technology. Is this foe security or economic reasons? Possibly both.

Who would you prefer to have a back door into your data, China or the US? Huawei denies allowing secret access, but we know US technology companies have helped their secret services.

Newsroom:  US delivers Five Eyes threat over Huawei

The United States has delivered the most explicit threat yet to New Zealand’s role in the Five Eyes alliance if it allows Huawei into the 5G network, saying it will not share information with any country which allows the Chinese company into “critical information systems”.

The remarks from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo call into question claims from Kiwi politicians and officials that outside pressure is not behind a decision to block Huawei equipment from being used by Spark in its 5G network.

The decision, made by the Government Communications Security Bureau late last year, has sparked fears of retaliation from China against New Zealand including a report in the CCP-owned Global Times which suggested Chinese tourists were turning away from the country in protest.

In an interview with Fox Business News, Pompeo said the country had been speaking to other nations to ensure they understood the risk of putting Huawei technology into their infrastructure.

“We can’t forget these systems were designed with the express work alongside the Chinese PLA, their military in China, they are creating real risk for these countries and their systems, the security of their people…

“We’re out sharing this information, the knowledge that America has gained through its vast network and making sure countries understand the risk. That’s important – we think they’ll make good decisions when they understand that risk.”

Asked specifically about the risks posed to Americans’ information through alliances like Five Eyes if partners allowed Huawei into their systems, Pompeo said that would be an obstacle to any future relationships.

“If a country adopts this and puts it in some of their critical information systems, we won’t be able to share information with them, we won’t be able to work alongside them.”

Given New Zealand has remained a part of Five Eyes despite allowing Huawei into its 4G and ultra-fast broadband networks, it is unclear how real the threat is – although intelligence officials have acknowledged that 5G networks provide an added layer of risk.

But the secret services of countries are not the only risk to our privacy.

Be very afraid?

If an antacid advertisement pops up after you burp, or a laxative advertisement pops up after you fart, then it may be too late.

The Government may be able tax us on our measured emissions.

UK – “Huawei risk can be managed”

Last November the New Zealand GCSB turned down Spark’s proposal to use Huawei equipment in it’s new 5G network. UK security chiefs say thaat the Huawei risk can be managed.

RNZ (30 November 2018) – Huawei 5G decision: Everything you need to know

The GCSB blocked Spark’s bid to use its equipment in the new 5G network and now the Chinese tech company is seeking an urgent meeting with the government.

GCSB Minister Andrew Little said the decision to turn down the overseas network provider was because the technology was too risky – not because the company is Chinese.

Mr Little won’t reveal what significant national security risks Huawei poses saying the information was classified.

But he said the decision had nothing to do with Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese government.

Paul Buchanan (RNZ 29 November) – Huawei vs Five Eyes: NZ diplomatic ties at centre of dilemma

The Government Communications Security Bureau’s (GCSB) decision to recommend against using Huawei equipment for the 5G rollout because of national security concerns underscores the strategic role commercial telecommunications plays in modern society.

It also exposes the disconnect between local telecommunications providers and the Five Eyes signals intelligence network, as well as that between career intelligence professionals and the politicians who oversee them.

Now (BBC): Huawei risk can be managed, say UK cyber-security chiefs

Any risk posed by involving the Chinese technology giant Huawei in UK telecoms projects can be managed, cyber-security chiefs have determined.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre’s decision undermines US efforts to persuade its allies to ban the firm from 5G communications networks.

Australia, New Zealand, and the US have already banned Huawei from supplying equipment for their future fifth generation mobile broadband networks, while Canada is reviewing whether the company’s products present a serious security threat.

Most of the UK’s mobile companies – Vodafone, EE and Three – have been working with Huawei on developing their 5G networks.

They are awaiting on a government review, due in March or April, that will decide whether they can use Huawei technology.

As first reported by the Financial Times, the conclusion by the National Cyber Security Centre – part of the intelligence agency GCHQ – will feed into the review.

The decision has not yet been made public, but the security agency said in a statement it had “a unique oversight and understanding of Huawei engineering and cyber security”.

This has been portrayed as a split amongst Five Eyes partners.

Jacinda Ardern says that what the Uk is doing aligns with what NZ is doing –UK finds it can mitigate Huawei risks, NZ follows same processes: PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand was going through the same process as the UK in considering a bid by Huawei to be involved in the rollout of 5G.

New Zealand’s spy agency recommended rejecting a similar bid here unless Spark proved it could mitigate similar risks.

Ms Ardern said the two countries’ processes were similar in this regard.

“We have a process where an assessment is made by the GCSB, independent of ministers. Any vendor who has made an application is then told of the outcome of that assessment and is given a chance, if there are security concerns to mitigate those concerns,” she said.

“Spark has been given options to around mitigation of potential security concerns and now the ball is in their court.”

An issue lurking in the background of this is the alternative to Huawei equipment – US equipment. There have long been claims that that allows US security back doors access to communications equipment.

 

Fisher defends spying ‘revelations’

Senior journalist David Fisher tries to defend the Herald’s ongoing spying revelations – providing a forum for Nicky Hager – in David Fisher: Spying – does the nation need to know?

This suggests the Herald is sensitive to criticisms. The latest spying on China article from Hager How NZ and US agents plotted to spy on China didn’t actually reveal spying on China, just ‘a plot’ or plans to possible spy on China.

Fisher opens by stating the obvious:

It would be surprising if our intelligence agencies were not spying on China in some way.

‘Spying’ is a bit of a loaded statement. It could mean as little as keeping an eye out for information of interest.

And Fisher acknowledges that it can be done legally.

By law there is a path cleared for the GCSB and SIS to carry out intelligence gathering on foreign states. There are even legal exceptions which would allow the sort of “data link” exploit planned for two Chinese government offices in Auckland, revealed in documents obtained by Edward Snowden.

The law also says such intelligence gathering must be to support the “national security of New Zealand”, the “international relations and well-being of New Zealand” and “the economic well-being of New Zealand”.

He then targets what may be the crux of the issue.

The issue which does arise is our motivations for doing so – and whether those are purely New Zealand’s motivations.

And then homes in on the target of concern.

A National Security Agency document, among other material taken by Snowden, states that the GCSB “continues to be especially helpful in its ability to provide NSA ready access to areas and countries that are difficult for the United States to access”.

In essence, our relationship with China is of use to the US and allows New Zealand to operate as a Trojan Horse – or even Trojan Kiwi – for NSA intelligence gathering efforts.

Five Eyes involves three other countries, the UK, Canada and Australia.

Helping Australia or Canada with their intelligence gathering wouldn’t cause so much concern, but in a co-operative arrangement we could just as easily be helping them as the US.

The Snowden/Hager series of ‘revelations’ appear to be targeting the USA, seeing any ‘intelligence’ involvement with them as bad.

We should certainly be interested in our relationships with the US, with China as with other countries.

I’m not sure that Hager reports are the best way to do this.

New Zealand has its own inquiry to come. United Future Peter Dunne voted for the new GCSB Act secure in the knowledge he had won from Mr Key a regular inquiry into the activities of the security agencies, the first due to begin prior to the end of June 2015.

Presumably the inquiry will see New Zealand talking about the activities of its security agencies.

As a forum, its a good place to answer the question about our Trojan Kiwi spying on China.

Yes this inquiry will be a good place to examine our intelligence relationships and operations (as much as they can be discussed openly).

But Fisher suggests he has a common agenda with Hager with a loaded “Trojan Kiwi spying on China” description. The inquiry should consider much more than one arm of much wider co-operation.

If the nation is making trade-offs, does the nation need to know?

Nations always make trade-offs. It’s sometimes called called diplomacy.

I’d be interested to know if we gain as much as we give in the Five Eyes relationship. Hager and Fisher could do well to consider all the pros and cons. New Zealand may gain significant benefits as well as risk falling out with trading partners.

Otherwise they risk being seen as little more than anti-American.

GCSB – less intelligence now

The new (acting) GCSB head Una Jagose claimed they gather less intelligence than seven years ago, not more.

“As I understand it, today we collect less intelligence than we did seven years ago…there hasn’t been any radical shift upwards as has been suggested in the media.”

Stuff reports in GCSB spies ‘collecting less intelligence’

And Jagose tried to respond to questions on mass collection of data asked in just the second time the GCSB has appeared in public before the Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

Much of the committee was dominated by whether the security agencies are undertaking indiscriminate collection of emails, telephone calls and social media messages.

Labour’s Andrew Little tried to get to the bottom of whether the agency carries out mass surveillance or collection, and what is meant by “full-take collection”, as referenced in the Snowden documents.

“It is very difficult to answer the question about what does it mean because it means different things to different people,” Jagose said.

“The connotation that I get from those phrases is some indiscriminate, for no purpose, not necessary collection of information for collection’s sake and we do not do that.

“What we do is lawful and authorised and necessary and proportionate and all of it…subject to independent oversight and you don’t have to take that from me. The public can take that from the systems that are to test that.”

On “full-take”, Jagose opted not to answer directly, citing a “tension” between the bureau’s need for secrecy and the public demand for transparency.

“I will not discuss matters that are or are not operational, details of the bureau, because that is not safe to do so… it is very difficult to say ‘yes we do some things, we don’t do some things.’ That is exactly the sorts of things that people who don’t have our interests at heart – and I don’t mean New Zealanders when I say that – people that are acting against New Zealand’s interests will find that information useful so we keep it close.

“But we don’t keep it from the Inspector General, the Commissioner [of Warrants], this committee.”

Jagose, and Security Intelligence Service director Rebecca Kitteridge, spent time detailing the oversight mechanisms both agencies are subject to.  Jagose says all collection of information by her agency must be done under a warrant.

“The very collection of information is authorised… so it’s not that we collect information and then seek authorisation for particular target issues. Everything we collect is authorised… the speculation in the public is that there is this wild collection of information for no purpose and then we have a look at it. In fact, collection is done for a purpose, and authorised.”

That’s certainly not what some of the more suspicious (or paranoid) anti-spy activists think. Some claim everything is collected and everything is stored by the USA forever.

David Shearer asked if it applied to all foreign intelligence surveillance.

“If we have a foreign intelligence target that we want to intercept, or otherwise access their communications, yes that is warranted,” she said. Inadvertently collected material from New Zealanders is destroyed, she said.

Little and Shearer also wanted details about how information was shared with countries in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which includes the US, Britain, Canada and Australia.

“We share training, we share resources but we don’t collect information for them. We collect the information for New Zealand and New Zealand purposes,” Jagose said. “Our Five Eyes partners also need to show why they need to see information, show it that it is lawful that they can look at that information.”

Kitteridge…

…says she takes into consideration factors such as a country’s human rights record when deciding whether to share information.

“There is quite careful consideration given in each case.”

These explanations didn’t satisfy Andrew Little who says that more clarity is required from the Ministers involved.

Our spying coukd benefit Pacific neighbours

There’s been a mixed reaction to the ‘revelation’ that New Zealand spies on Pacific countries, both locally and from the Pacific. I’d like to add some points I haven’t seen brought up (but probably have somewhere).

There’s obvious cons to spying on generally friendly nations.

But there could very easily be pros as well.

Potential terrorism could be detected from the Pacific. And detecting that could benefit New Zealand and also other Pacific countries – I’m sure if our GCSB detected warning signs of an impending terrorist attack on say Rarotonga or Niue then helping them protect themselves or helping protect them would possibly be appreciated.

And it’s also possible our relationship with Five Eyes and access to intelligence from other participating countries could help to protect not just us and other Pacific countries.

Spying in the Pacific has it’s dangers and intrusions, but it could as easily have benefits. And possibly more benefits than risks.

Spy ‘revelations’ a flood or a trickle?

Yesterday John Key tried to pre-empt the flood of spy revelations due today. TVNZ reported:

PM: Discount massively everything Nicky Hager says today

Investigative journalist Nicky Hager has promised a big reveal today about New Zealand’s secret spying operations, but the Prime Minister shot down the allegations before they were even made yesterday.

Mr Hager begins a series of revelations from today which he claims show which countries our spies have targeted, when and why.

He said he had spent the last year working through information collected by ex-US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

NZ Herald didn’t cover that but are leading the revelation charge this morning.

#snowdenNZ : Leaked documents show New Zealand spies on its Pacific friends and sends the data to the US

EXCLUSIVE: GCSB collects phone calls, emails and internet data from NZ’s closest and most vulnerable neighbours, secret papers reveal.

New Zealand’s spies are targeting the entire email, phone and social media communications of the country’s closest, friendliest and most vulnerable neighbours, according to documents supplied by United States fugitive andwhistleblower Edward Snowden.

Snowden’s files reveal a heavy focus on “full-take collection” from the Pacific with nearly two dozen countries around the world targeted by our Government Communications Security Bureau.

Information from across the Pacific is collected by New Zealand’s GCSB but sent onto the United States’ National Security Agency to plug holes in its global spying network, the documents show.

Being ‘exclusive’ makes this look like a carefully managed and packaged release.

That New Zealand collects information from across the Pacific is not a revelation, it would have been very surprising if they didn’t.

Mr Key said it was “bizarre” to reveal details about intelligence at a time when New Zealand faced a terror threat. “We’ve got the situation where we’ve Isil reaching out to cause harm to New Zealanders.”

He said he would not reveal details of intelligence but said it was done for “really, really good reasons”.

When quizzed mid-afternoon he said he had no idea what would be revealed. But, pointing to Hager’s election bombshell Dirty Politics, he said: “Nicky Hager was wrong last time. His information is old. I guarantee you it will be wrong this time.”

Challenged on claims of fabrication, John Key’s office couldn’t point to any basis for the claim.

Hager and the Herald have been researching this for months – Hager said “he had spent the last year working through information “. Key is just finding out today what they have chosen to uncover. We can expect him to fight back some more.

Also:

#snowdenNZ / The price of the Five Eyes club: Mass spying on friendly nations and sending vast amounts of intelligence to NSA

Another headline leading with a hash tag followed by a Twitter sized bite, obviously targeting a wide social media audience.

Leaked Snowden files show most of GCSB’s targets are not security threats to New Zealand, as Government suggests

New Zealand’s electronic surveillance agency has dramatically expanded its spying operations during the years of John Key’s National Government and is automatically funnelling vast amounts of intelligence to the US National Security Agency, top-secret documents reveal.

Since 2009, the Government Communications Security Bureau intelligence base at Waihopai has moved to “full-take collection”, indiscriminately intercepting Asia-Pacific communications and providing them en masse to the NSA through the controversial NSA intelligence system XKeyscore, which is used to monitor emails and internet browsing habits.

NZH balances this coverage with a link to something they published in September last year.:

John Key ‘comfortable’ that NSA is not spying on NZ

Prime Minister John Key says he can’t give an absolute assurance New Zealanders are not subject to mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) but he is “comfortable” that is not happening.

Mr Key this afternoon said he was “sure it’s absolutely true” that former NSA analyst Edward Snowden had the capacity to see information about New Zealanders when he worked for the agency, but that information would not have come from mass surveillance programmes run by this country’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

They highlighted:

– Key concedes claim NZ data may be accessible through XKeyscore
– Says NZ contributes some information to Five Eyes databases
– “But not mass, wholesale surveillance as people might say”
– No evidence of mass surveillance, says security chief

These claims will no doubt be compared to the current flood of revelations.

This is all going to take some digesting and thrashing over to see if there’s anything damning to New Zealand.

And expect John Key to keep playing it down and claiming things have moved on from when Snowden got his data anyway.

It will take a day or few to work out if there are any remarkable revelations,or if it’s a trickle rather than a flood for Key and his Government.

Or if it’s little different to same-old spying that at the most most people will shrug at it and carry on with their lives, clinging to their mobile phones and tablets to keep them connected to the world wide web of intrigue.