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U.S. hacked email of Chinese tech giant Huawei, reports say

| Saturday, March 22, 2014, 5:51 p.m.

BERLIN — U.S. intelligence agencies hacked into the email servers of Chinese tech giant Huawei five years ago, about the time concerns were growing in Washington that the telecommunications equipment manufacturer was a threat to national security, according to news reports.

The National Security Agency began targeting Huawei in early 2009 and quickly succeeded in gaining access to the company's client lists and email archive, German weekly Der Spiegel and The New York Times reported on Saturday, citing intelligence documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Among the people whose emails the NSA was able to read was the president of Huawei.

The operation, which the news outlets claim was coordinated with the CIA, the FBI and White House officials, netted source codes for Huawei products. One aim was to exploit the fact that Huawei equipment is widely used to route voice and data traffic around the world. But the NSA was concerned that the Chinese government might use Huawei's presence in foreign networks for espionage purposes.

In 2012, the House Intelligence Committee recommended that Huawei be barred from doing business in the United States, citing the threat that its equipment could enable Chinese intelligence services to tamper with American communication networks.

Huawei responded to the latest reports by saying it objects to activities that threaten network security, said William B. Plummer, the company's vice president of external affairs.

“The information ... reaffirms the need for all companies to be vigilant at all times,” Plummer said.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said the agency doesn't comment on specific alleged activities. She reiterated the NSA's position: “We do not use foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of — or give intelligence we collect to — U.S. companies.”

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