by John Ward
The United States has stepped into the Huawei row and played the ‘No Huawei or no Intelligence’ card. Whether that gains any traction or not with the British Government, it’s obvious that The People don’t count in the assessment of whether to let the contract go ahead. The UK is sliding gently into global oblivion, and its citizens are becoming nothing more than cattle to be herded.
The John le Carré novel that is the Government’s Huawei cock-up shifted up a gear last night when the US security community made it clear to several senior UK media outlets that it was “highly likely” the CIA-Pentagon-State Department axis would stop sharing intelligence with Britain if the Huawei deal goes ahead.
So rare is the finding of any intelligence along that axis, there isn’t a lot to go round at the best of times; but that won’t cut any ice with Downing Street or SIS. If the right spooks confirm that the threat is genuine, Huawei is not going to be a player in the UK’s G5 programme.
Piecing together the Spaghetti Junction of the Huawei affair lurches from the hugely comic to the potentially devastating via the impenetrable. We have become accustomed in recent years to every “news” story involving a long search of the source provenance; but when three military intelligence agencies and two political classes are involved, the task is close to impossible.
An asian friend informs me that the correct pronunciation of Huawei is “Who are we?” The rest of us would also like to know the answer to that one, but we are unlikely to get it. All one can do is fall back on cui bono – who benefits?
Even this doesn’t help that much….but it does make for some very nasty (and credible) accusations.
The first port of call is the Conservative Party itself. Now it has emerged that Tory pols and donors have skin in the game (Lord Browne is the CEO of the Huawei company awarded the G5 contract, and two further Tories have senior positions there) the blamestorming has begun in earnest. Yesterday, Downing street dumped on Theresa May’s deputy David Lidington as a guilty party, but several more believable sources suggest that David Cameron and his entourage brokered the original deal. Perhaps the entire Party is guilty: the Prime Minister herself must have known that Tory money and influence was involved – and the frantic lobbing of cadavers to the wolves has her modus operandum scribbled all over it.
Perhaps the original attempt to nobble Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid and other Tory leadership contenders on the National Security Council (NSC) was in turn a distraction from the Party’s grubby connection to the Huawei appointment. Perhaps they did leak to nobble Tinfoil Theresa. Perhaps they genuinely felt that the security risk was too great….or the Tory corruption involved would come out….or both.
There’s an awful lot of perhaps to this, and it isn’t going to get less foggy any time soon.
Whether the PM likes it or not, the affair has gone from its original Off-Broadway Playlet setting to being a multi-billion bucks international smash hit. There have been some changes to the cast, yet more sub-plots have been added and the dénouement is still being written….but the intrigue at least is a little more focused:
- It is becoming clear that the UK intelligence community didn’t want the deal to go ahead. As long ago as last December, the head of our secret service, Alex Younger, told Ministers “we need to have a conversation about Huawei”. I understand that (in the light of the Chinese giant’s CEO Meng Wanzhou’s arrest warrant in Canada) that conversation took place.
- Doubts were also apparent among the uniformed military, and some folk continue to insist that it was one or more top brass hats that rang the press….or rather, got someone else on the General Staff to do it. No names, no pack-drill – that sort of thing.
- As ever, there is an obvious geopolitical element: the US is keen to cripple Huawei and ensure that it’s All-American hardware eavesdropping on the world, not Chinese. This is nothing personal, you understand: strictly business and global hegemony.
- Above all, the affair has placed Theresa May in an even more lurid spotlight. Not only do we now know that she puts EU bloc considerations before the British People and the country’s sovereignty: she puts Conservative business interests before any of it. And if the US Alt State plays a trump card (with or without Trump) then that beats every other hand.
For me, that last paragraph holds the lessons we need to learn here.
First, Britain is rapidly slipping down the league tables of international jousting. We were in the EU having avoided the disaster of euro membership, and still had Most Favoured Status with the USA. It looked like we were gaining some independence after the 2016 Referendum decision; but then the Establishment decided to turn that bid into more junior EU membership minus only the political power. After 2022 (unless Brexiteers really can get their electoral act together) we will be umbilically attached to Mother Brussels….a mere region of the doomed European Empire. Whatever Trump thinks, the US élites are backing Berlin: Huawei deal or not, we will become an offshore subsidiary of EUNATO.
Second, We The People come last, limping over the finish line after most of the punters have gone home. The one and only abundantly clear feature of this sordid mess is that, at no point in the process did anyone question whether the UK citizen’s privacy and freedom from totalitarian surveillance might be in doubt. It just never came up, somehow. I mean, we’re already spied upon by ISPs and social media answerable only to the Secret State, so, um, why would it?
The intrusion into our lives looks set to exceed anything George Orwell foresaw in Nineteen Eighty-Four. As Yves Smith notes at Naked Capitalism:
‘U.S. technology giant Microsoft has teamed up with a Chinese military university to develop artificial intelligence systems that could potentially enhance government surveillance and censorship capabilities…..the advent of digital repression is profoundly affecting the relationship between citizen and state. New technologies are arming governments with unprecedented capabilities to monitor, track and surveil individual people. Even governments in democracies with strong traditions of rule of law find themselves tempted to abuse these new abilities…..Artificial intelligence systems are everywhere in the modern world, helping run smartphones, internet search engines, digital voice assistants and Netflix movie queues. Many people fail to realize how quickly AI is expanding, thanks to ever-increasing amounts of data to be analyzed, improving algorithms and advanced computer chips.’
The terrifying thing isn’t that Smith is right. The true horror is that 95+% of the population is too naive, thick, nasty, busy, tired, distracted or desperate to care.
Have a nice day.