Michael Hayden says intelligence agencies have information about Huawei's clandestine activities and that it has "shared with the Chinese state intimate and extensive knowledge of the foreign telecommunications systems it is involved with". Photo: Reuters
The former head of the US Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, Michael Hayden, believes Chinese telecommunications manufacturer Huawei Technologies is a significant security threat to Australia and the US, has spied for the Chinese government, and intelligence agencies have hard evidence of its activities.
The retired four-star general told The Australian Financial Review it was his "professional judgment" that Huawei supplied sensitive intelligence to Chinese officials, an assessment that backs up the federal government's decision in 2011 to ban it from helping build the national broadband network.
Critics said the move was an overreaction that hurt relations with China.
General Hayden said Western intelligence agencies had information about Huawei's clandestine activities and it had, at a minimum, "shared with the Chinese state intimate and extensive knowledge of the foreign telecommunications systems it is involved with," he said. "I think that goes without saying - it's one reality," he said.
Federal Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull has said the Coalition would revisit a decision to ban Huawei from the national broadband network if it won government.Photo: Andrew Meares
General Hayden's comments are the first time a leading Western official has categorically stated in public that there is evidence to back claims that Huawei, the world's largest telecoms infrastructure supplier, has spied for the Chinese state.
The comments are likely to be damaging to the company, which has embarked on an extensive lobbying campaign in Australia and elsewhere to promote itself as a low-cost and reliable equipment maker independent of the Chinese government. Huawei's global cyber security officer, John Suffolk, described Mr Hayden's comments as tired, unsubstantiated and defamatory, and said the company's critics should present any evidence publicly.
"It's time to put up or shut up," said Mr Suffolk, a former chief information officer of the UK government.
COALITION WILL REVISIT NBN DECISION
Huaweihas funded more trips to China by federal politicians- mostly Coalition MPs - than any other Chinese company, according to the parliamentary pecuniary interests register.
The Coalition's communications spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, and deputy leader, Julie Bishop, have said they would revisit the NBN decision if the Coalition won government.
General Hayden, in his most extensive interview since he left the CIA, said the security risks of hiring Huawei were too great for governments.
"It's simply not acceptable for Huawei to be creating the backbone of the domestic telecommunications network, period," he said.
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