Five Eyes

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Own report) - In the dispute over boycotting the Chinese Huawei corporation, the German government is considering joining a campaign of the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing network, it was reported in Canada and Australia. According to the media, intelligence chiefs of the five English-speaking "Five Eyes" countries launched a boycott campaign last July under US leadership. The campaign seeks not only to put pressure on the governments of Five Eyes members Great Britain and Canada, which - for economic reasons - have initially been reluctant to boycott Huawei, but also to increase the pressure on the Germany and Japan. Experts in Australia speculate that, in return for its participation in the boycott, Berlin could become an accepted FIVE Eyes member, something Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND) has been striving to do for years. To "maintain their own technology competence," EU companies should develop 5G, according to Berlin. German managers, however, are up in arms, fearing falling far behind and never catching up with China.

A US-led Intelligence Network

The current campaign against Huawei was launched at a July meeting of the "Five Eyes" spy chiefs held in Canada, as Australian and US journalists have learned. "Five Eyes" is an intelligence network born of joint US and British activities during the Second World War. Members include the two founders along with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

First Blows at Huawei

The July meeting had been preceded by an offensive of the most important US intelligence services. February 13, 2018, the heads of six US espionage agencies, including the CIA, FBI, and NSA, explicitly warned against Huawei at a hearing and advised US citizens not to buy smartphones from this Chinese company, even for private use. At the time, the CIA director was Mike Pompeo, who, today, is Secretary of State.[1] Ten days later, Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met with NSA Director Mike Rogers and with the Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence during his visit to Washington. Both insisted that Canberra also renounce use of Huawei products - especially for the elaboration of Australia's 5G network.[2] Just two days later, Australia's Ministry of Defense announced it would scrap all Huawei smartphones as well as all those from the Chinese company ZTE, that were still being used by a few dozen employees.[3] This not only put Huawei as well as ZTE out of the running in the United States, but seriously weakened their standing also in Australia.

The Campaign Begins

It has obviously been more difficult to convince Great Britain and Canada of boycotting Huawei. For many years, Great Britain has been closely cooperating with the Chinese company, which, in 2010, even agreed to cooperate with British intelligence, to clear up suspicions of espionage or other anti-British activities. ( reported.[4]) Brexit supporters are also hoping for a free trade agreement with China. Canada, on the other hand, is cooperating closely in economics with the People's Republic of China and seeking to maintain its own elbowroom in relationship to the Trump administration. According to reports in the Sydney Morning Herald and Wall street Journal, Washington and Canberra now seem to have used the mid-July "Five Eyes" meeting in Canada, to considerably intensify the pressure in the question of Huawei.[5] Immediately following the meeting, British intelligence services began to publicly mobilize against Huawei. August 19, Australia's Prime Minister Turnbull told President Donald Trump by telephone that Canberra would ban Huawei and ZTE from its 5G. August 23 - on the eve of his overthrow - Turnbull officially made his decision public.[6]

First "Successes"

The anti-Huawei campaign only began to show tangible success following the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the company's chief finance officer December 1 at the Vancouver airport in Canada. Observers do not rule out the possibility that US officials had deliberately orchestrated the attack in Canada, to pressure that government into taking a position.[7] Even after two meetings with "Five Eyes" intelligence representatives, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau still had made no moves to exclude Huawei from its 5G.[8] Beijing immediately increased pressure on Ottawa, following the arrest, warning of the consequences of a possible renunciation of cooperation with Huawei. Japan, on the other hand, reacted to the arrest and announced it was considering a boycott of Huawei. Following Norway, the Netherlands has also announced it was considering joining the measures.[9] As was reported last week, the German government is now also considering a reversal of its previous course.

Threatened with Stagnation

If the reports are true, the question arises as to what is behind a change of course that is diametrically opposed to German economic interests. Last week, The President of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) Dieter Kempf spoke out in strict opposition to a company "regardless of its source, name, or origin being per se alleged a danger."[10] The German business community expects, on the one hand, that banning Huawei would mean a more expensive and slower elaboration of 5G and thereby cause German companies serious strategic disadvantages in a central technology of the future.[11] In addition, several German companies have already begun to set their sights on cooperation with companies in the People's Republic of China, including Huawei - for example in sectors where Germany is lagging behind, such as autonomous driving and artificial intelligence. ( reported.[12]) No one knows whether this cooperation will still reap the desired profits, if Berlin is simultaneously participating in efforts to run one of the most successful and popular Chinese companies out of business.

Seven Eyes?

Australian experts find it conceivable that Berlin and Tokyo may want to buy their admission into the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing network with their participation in the Huawei boycott. As the expert on intelligence services Erich Schmidt-Eenboom confirms, this is what the BND has been seeking for years.[13] Richard McGregor, of the Lowy Institute in Sydney, would not rule out that in the foreseeable future, we will begin to talk about the Seven Eyes rather than a mere five.[14]

The Price of Sovereignty

At the same time, more and more voices in Berlin are beginning to demand that "Germany and Europe" "regain their digital sovereignty."[15] This demand is being raised because, of the four leading companies for network equipment, the largest (Huawei, with 28 percent of the world market in 2017) and the fourth largest (ZTE, 13 percent) are from China, while the second largest (Ericsson, 27 percent) and the third largest (Nokia, 23 percent) are from Sweden and Finland, i.e. from the EU. Back in December, Joachim Pfeiffer, spokesperson for questions of economic policy for the CDU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, explained "to remain independent in the long term, we must ... be sure to maintain our own technological competence - even if this is expensive in the short term."[16]

Assured Accessibility for Intelligence Services

Precisely this solution would probably insure foreign intelligence services accessibility to the German 5G network. In September, the "Five Eyes" network made it clear that they wanted communication providers to build "back doors" in their systems, allowing access to communication - exactly what Huawei is being accused of doing. A statement published online at the time by the Australian government - but later removed - explicitly states that "technical, legislative, coercive or other measures" should be considered to implement these "back doors."[17] In the long run, only those companies not involved in the "Five Eyes" networks will be able to avoid this - such as Huawei.


Please read also: The Battle over Huawei and The Battle over Huawei (II).


[1] Sara Salinas: Six top US intelligence chiefs caution against buying Huawei phones. 13.02.2018.

[2] John Kehoe, Angus Grigg, Lisa Murray: US warns Malcolm Turnbull not to use Huawei for 5G network. 24.02.2018.

[3] David Wroe: Defence ditches Chinese-made phones as US spy chiefs sound security warning. 25.02.2018.

[4] See also The Battle over Huawei (II).

[5] Rob Taylor, Sara Germano: At Gathering of Spy Chiefs, U.S., Allies Agreed to Contain Huawei. 14.12.2018.

Chris Uhlmann, Angus Grigg: How the "Five Eyes" cooked up the campaign to kill Huawei. 13.12.2018.

[6] Chris Uhlmann, Angus Grigg: How the "Five Eyes" cooked up the campaign to kill Huawei. 13.12.2018.

[7] Chris Uhlmann, Angus Grigg: Allies' campaign led to Huawei arrest. 13.12.2018.

[8] Robert Fife, Steven Chase: Five Eyes spy chiefs warned Trudeau twice about Huawei national-security risk. 17.12.2018.

[9] Ellen Proper: Netherlands Ponders Restrictions on Huawei Ahead of 5G Auction. 19.01.2019.

[10] Markus Lücker: Huawei droht Ausschluss vom 5G-Netz in Deutschland. 17.01.2019.

[11] Daniel Gräfe: Ein Ausschluss Huaweis könnte teuer werden. 18.01.2019.

[12] See also The Battle over Huawei (II).

[13] "Die Bundesregierung weiß, was bei der Wirtschaftsspionnage läuft". 06.05.2015.

[14] Richard McGregor: We need the Five Eyes spy network, but with oversight. 12.01.2019.

[15], [16] Deutschland muss seine digitale Souveränität zurückgewinnen. 11.12.2018.

[17] Carolin Gißibl: Angriff der "Five Eyes" auf verschlüsselte Chats und Anrufe. 11.09.2018.