The National Security Agency has in recent years "pried its way into the servers" of Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company that the spy agency has long suspected could work with the Chinese military to steal secrets from American firms and the U.S. government, The New York Times reported Saturday.
The Times, and Germany's Der Spiegel, say they're getting that news from some of the latest information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Der Spiegel says the material indicates that the NSA has "conducted a major intelligence offensive against China, with targets including the Chinese government and networking company Huawei. ... Among the American intelligence service's targets were former Chinese President Hu Jintao, the Chinese Trade Ministry, banks, as well as telecommunications companies."
The Times reports that "one of the goals of the operation, code-named 'Shotgiant,' was to find any links between Huawai and the People's Liberation Army, one 2010 document made clear. But the plans went further: to exploit Huawai's technology so that when the company sold equipment to other countries — including both allies and nations that avoid buying American products — the NSA could roam through their computer and telephone networks to conduct surveillance and, if ordered by the president, offensive cyberoperations."
The Times also adds that:
"The Obama administration distinguishes between the hacking and corporate theft that the Chinese conduct against American companies to buttress their own state-run businesses, and the intelligence operations that the United States conducts against Chinese and other targets.
"American officials have repeatedly said that the N.S.A. breaks into foreign networks only for legitimate national security purposes."
The U.S. and China, the Timesnotes, are waging something of a "digital cold war."
Caitlin Hayden, an NSA spokeswoman, tells Der Spiegel that while she could not comment specifically, "I can tell you that our intelligence activities are focused on the national security needs of our country."