Huawei Threatens Lawsuit Over WSJ Story

Robert Clark
News Analysis
Robert Clark

Huawei has threatened legal action against the Wall Street Journal over its story alleging the company helped African governments carry out illicit surveillance.

Huawei's legal team has sent a letter to the Journal describing the story as false and defamatory and saying it ignored information provided by Huawei.

The story, published August 15, alleges that Huawei technicians ran a phishing scam to help the Uganda internal security service crack into the phones of opposition activists.

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A prominent entertainer and opposition leader, Bobi Wine, claims he was arrested and assaulted by police after his phone messages were hacked. (See Another Huawei Scandal, Another Denial.)

WSJ quotes what it says are a current security official and one ex-official as saying they worked with Huawei staff on the phone hacks.

But Huawei has said it has had no contracts with the local police or security agency and after an internal investigation could find no employees who would have helped.

The Huawei legal team is also arguing that if the police wanted to carry out surveillance they would not approach the network equipment provider but the carrier, which is authorized under law to support their efforts.

As well as the alleged phone hacking, the Journal article says Huawei's Safe City street camera system was also used to monitor citizens illicitly in Uganda, Algeria and Zambia.

Huawei has argued that its Uganda system isn't fully rolled out, while it denies selling the kit to the other two countries.

"Huawei takes these false and defamatory statements about its business seriously, especially when published by a news source as well regarded as the Journal," the letter says.

It says the company is willing to defend its conduct and seeks a negotiation with Journal's lawyers.

Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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