WASHINGTON - The US National Security Agency has infiltrated servers in the headquarters of Chinese telecommunications and internet giant Huawei Technologies Co , obtaining sensitive information and monitoring the communications of top executives, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
The newspaper said its report on the operation, code-named "Shotgiant," was based on NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden, the former agency contractor who since last year has leaked data revealing sweeping US surveillance activities. The German magazine Der Spiegel also reported on the documents.
One of the goals of the operation was to find any connections between Huawei and the Chinese People's Liberation Army, according to a 2010 document cited by the Times.
But the newspaper said the operation also sought to exploit Huawei's technology. It reported that the NSA aimed to conduct surveillance through computer and telephone networks Huawei sold to other nations. If ordered by the US president, the NSA also planned to unleash offensive cyber operations, it said.
The newspaper said the NSA secured access to the servers in Huawei's sealed headquarters in the city of Shenzhen and got information about the workings of the giant routers and complex digital switches the company says connect a third of the world's people. The NSA also tracked communications of Huawei's top executives, the Times reported.
Der Spiegel reported that the NSA breached Huawei's computer network and copied a list of more than 1,400 clients and internal training documents for engineers. "We have access to so much data that we don't know what to do with it," the magazine cited an NSA document as saying.
The magazine said the NSA also is pursuing a digital offensive against the Chinese political leadership. It named the government targets as former Chinese president Hu Jintao and the Chinese trade and foreign ministries.
'PLANS AND INTENTIONS'
Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products. We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products," the Times quoted an NSA document as saying, to "gain access to networks of interest" around the world.
"If we can determine the company's plans and intentions," an analyst wrote in the 2010 document, "we hope that this will lead us back to the plans and intentions" of the Chinese government.
The Times also reported that as Huawei invested in new technology and laid undersea cables to connect its $40 billion-a-year networking operation, the NSA was interested in getting information on into key Chinese customers including"high priority targets - Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya, Cuba."
The Times quoted William Plummer, a senior Huawei executive in the United States, as saying that the company did not know it was a target of the NSA.
"The irony is that exactly what they are doing to us is what they have always charged that the Chinese are doing through us,"the Times quoted Plummer as saying.