Is Huawei a threat to the UK?
The original controversy was over the government’s decision to consider using the Chinese company, Huawei, to provide software for our telecommunications systems. Many people have been concerned that the company could plant listening devices in the systems or that they could be in a position to sabotage our systems. You might worry that they would be loyal to China rather than to Britain if any conflict of interest arose.
Is the controversy no longer about Huawei?
People are now concerned that someone, presumably, a member of the National Security Council, has leaked information to the Daily Telegraph, detailing discussions at that council around the question of using this Chinese technology. Some people say that members must feel able to express opinions there without any fear that people will pass what they say to the media. Although leaks are common in politics, many people believe that national security is more sensitive than other government business. Some people are worried that Britain’s allies could lose confidence and be afraid to share intelligence with us.
Cartoon man with magnifying glass. Looking for the leak about Huawei?
Is the risk of a leak greater than the risk posed by Huawei?
I am concerned that the leak has diverted attention from the original issue. When, or if, someone finds the source of the leak and the government takes action, the question of the risk of relying on Huawei for our communications will remain. Security experts say they have been monitoring the situation and have not found any evidence that the company has done anything wrong so far. How reassuring is that? It may be that the company has fooled our security services, or it may be that they have done nothing wrong YET, because the Chinese are playing a long game, as is their habit. They are more able than our politicians to look beyond the next five years.
Can we balance the risks posed by Huawei and by the leak?
As I have often said, Risk Management is usually about balancing one risk with another. This time, I don’t think that applies. We need to control both risks. Our national security is too important for us to forget about either.
What about you? Do you let concern about one risk divert your attention from another? Could you be more concerned about finding a whistleblower than about addressing the issue they raise? Or vice versa? Could the whistleblower have another agenda, like some members of the National Security Council, perhaps?