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Monday, 20 July 2020 04:35

Now, that's rich! Turnbull becomes partner in CIA-backed firm, calls out Xenophon for Huawei advisory role Featured

Now, that's rich! Turnbull becomes partner in CIA-backed firm, calls out Xenophon for Huawei advisory role Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

In a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is investing in a security company known as Kasada which has taken money from In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA, is calling for former Independent senator Nick Xenophon to enter his name on Australia's foreign influence register because he is offering legal advice to Chinese firm Huawei.

In other words, American money good, Chinese money bad. American spying good, alleged Chinese spying bad.

This is not the first time In-Q-Tel has invested in a security firm; as iTWire has reported many a time, the CIA-backed investment agency has also put money into the company Recorded Future. Wikipedia describes the In-Q-Tel investment in Recorded Future in this way: "The company has close links with In-Q-Tel, CIA’s investment arm, and Google Ventures, who were both early investors."

Turnbull went on the record about his investment last month, along with the founder of Kasada, Sam Crowther, with the Australian Financial Review trumpeting the story as an exclusive.

The silver-haired ex-PM, who is always willing to indulge in verbiage, told the newspaper: "‘We are seeing [an] unprecedented scale and rate of compromise, as tactics used by malicious actors become more sophisticated. Cyber security is more important than ever, and Kasada is making a very big contribution to that.''

Overnight, Turnbull attacked Xenophon, who is known for his ability to attract the media, sanctimoniously questioning the South Australian ex-senator for "seeking to influence governments and public opinion and... doing more than just being the lawyer giving advice on technical legal matters?"

Xenophon, and former ace journalist Mark Davis, his partner in the legal entity XenophonDavis, have made no secret about their working for the beleaguered Chinese firm. They have appeared in the weekly forums that Huawei hosts, pointing out the scurrilous rumours that have been used to besmirch the reputation of a firm that is to all appearances the same as one from any of the other 200-odd countries that dot the globe.

The only difference is that Huawei is Chinese. And, of course, it does business in a different way to American firms. Which we should all be thankful for in many ways given the rapacious manner in which many US companies operate.

It is entirely possible that Turnbull has a problem with this. It would not surprise me; as someone who has written reams about the ridiculous manner in which the US has sought to throw mud at the company, I have said the same thing many a time.

Huawei has been accused time and again of selling products full of security holes; if anyone can show me one such hole, I will give the company a roasting as I never have meted out before. And those who read what I write are familiar with the fact that when it comes to shonky practices, I rarely hold back.

If Turnbull has some facts to prove that Xenophon is a Chinese pawn or has political reasons for his work with Huawei, or has joined the Chinese Communist Party, then he should tell the world at large about it. Else, it might be a good idea to shut up.

Xenophon is not the first Australian politician to work for the company; Victoria's John Brumby was on the board until a few months ago. Former foreign minister Alexander Downer also did a stint with Huawei. And many other politicians have taken money from Chinese companies for different kinds of work. I'm reliably told that the money paid by these Chinese companies is the same as that paid by other companies in Australia and elsewhere. It is not counterfeit.

It's instructive that Turnbull's accusations were ventilated by Latika Bourke of the Nine Entertainment group; when the UK did a backflip and announced it was banning Huawei's involvement in its 5G networks, Bourke said it was a stunning development. She was blissfully unaware that both the Telegraph and the Times had been running articles for weeks about just such an outcome. But it did not seem to have crossed her radar – even though she resides in the UK. She seems to have some difficulty residing in the here and now.

Now if Turnbull wants to invest in companies along with the CIA, that is his business. Good luck, mazel tov. But the toff from Wentworth should be aware that he is opening himself up to being described as a hypocrite when he criticises others for doing what he claims is something similar.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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