Cisco Systems · cyber security · Cybersecurity · Huawei

Big Boy Politics, Rep. Frank Wolf demonstrates

Cisco Systems Corporate HQ
Cisco Systems Corporate HQ (Photo credit: gtmcknight)

I am naive, I admit it. I used to think that people did the right things for the right reasons. I was an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts, a church acolyte and I have always thought the best of people.  I admit that once I put an extra vote into the ballot box when voting for the homecoming queen in college, for that I still feel guilty.  My incentive?  She was a friend, a very nice person and smart.

But I have since seen how politics in the US really works.  My representative in Congress can be influenced.  Yes, I believe the word “influenced” is correct.  The word manipulated may be more correct, some would even accuse our representatives in Congress of even more brutal words, but I choose to take the high road.

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) is a United States wiretapping law passed in 1994. According to Wikipedia:

CALEA’s purpose is to enhance the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to conduct electronic surveillance by requiring that telecommunications carriers and manufacturers of telecommunications equipment modify and design their equipment, facilities, and services to ensure that they have built-in surveillance capabilities, allowing federal agencies to monitor all telephone, broadband internet, and VoIP traffic in real-time.

In other words Cisco’s equipment must enable surveillance, using its equipment, wherever its equipment is installed.  In Cisco’s case, it is an American multi-national company with over $44 Billion of profits earned, just from outside the United States (and invested outside the US).  In other words a ‘ton’ of its equipment (probably much more, quite literally) is installed in many countries around the world.

In a letter dated April 25, Representative Wolf actually states that Cisco’s “toughest rival” is Huawei Telecommunications Company.   His letter officially tries to discourage another company from working with Huawei. This is Big Boy politics, where a US Congressman uses the power of his office to ‘dissuade’ a company from conducting its business.

The issue is ‘national security’.  Representative Wolf accuses Huawei’s telecommunication equipment of doing exactly what Cisco equipment MUST DO, in order to be CALEA compliant.

But note, dear reader. Representative Wolf is very careful.  He does not accuse Huawei of spying, he says their equipment ‘has the potential’ of being used for spying – just like Cisco’s equipment.

Cisco accused Huawei of spending $500,000 on lobbying.  A quick look at a lobbying database shows Cisco spent $2.8 million on Lobbying during the same time period.

Representative Wolf is a politician, I expect him to wage political warfare for and against his political opponents.  I do not, however, expect a US Congressional Representative to be waging business warfare on behalf of Cisco.  Perhaps the $2,800,000 they spend on lobbying “influenced” the Congressman?  I know that information can influence someone, in this case one has to ask the question if lobbying dollars directly lead to Congressional influence?

Postscript: Congressman Wolf, why don’t you establish a program, for the sake of national security, inspecting computers and telecommunications equipment originating from outside the US, looking for embedded malicious code and backdoors as well as inspecting software updates for that equipment for the same?  Did somebody inspect the computer on your desk for embedded code?

3 thoughts on “Big Boy Politics, Rep. Frank Wolf demonstrates

  1. Computers and equipment coming from China will probably always be suspect. But are we doing anything about it? People in the DoD want iPads, yet they are assembled in and shipped from China. Who can say whether the Chinese government is or isn’t forcing FoxConn to embed firmware in the chips to allow spying?

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