Michael Hayden, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, said in a landmark interview with the Australian Financial Review that he believes Chinese telecommunications company Huawei Technologies represents an unambiguous national security threat to the US and Australia.
The interview focused on the next generation of cyber threats, most accurately described as cyber espionage, as well as what governments are facing right now – using the cyber domain to destroy information and / or degrade a network.
The topic quickly shifted to Huawei as the interviewer asked if Hayden ever had any direct exposure to the company. The former chief said Huawei was trying to establish a significant foothold in the US about two or three years ago. As part of that push, they attempted to get people like Hayden to endorse their presence in the US.
After reviewing Huawei’s briefing papers, he said everything looked good. But there simply weren’t enough briefing slides to convince him that having Huawei involved in critical communications infrastructure was going to be okay. It wasn’t blind prejudice that led him to this decision, but rather his experience based on a career spanning four decades as an intelligence officer.
When asked if he believes hard evidence exists to support the idea that Huawei has engaged in espionage on behalf of the Chinese government in the past, Hayden said he could not comment on specific instances of espionage but had no reason to doubt evidence does exist.
Hayden noted that at a minimum, he believes Huawei would have shared intimate and extensive knowledge of the foreign telecommunications systems it is involved with (assuming the company had been given the green light to build a strong foothold in the US).