On the 16th of Feb, I received a note in my Facebook inbox from a close friend of mine pointing to an article published in FT Magazine titled “Death in Singapore.” In the opening paragraph, the authors immediately point out the controversy surrounding the death of Dr Shane Todd, who was on a working stint with the Institute of Microelectronics (IME). He was supposed to return to the US after 18 months of work in the government research institute in Singapore, but he did not. His parents claim that he was murdered and was involved in an illegal transaction with a China based company Huawei, a telecom manufacturer. At the crime scene, Shane’s mother finds an external hard drive which contains incriminating evidence of a transaction between IME and Huawei:
The plan lays out how, from 2012 to the end of 2014, IME and Huawei would “co-develop” an amplifier device powered by gallium nitride (GaN), a semiconductor material able to withstand extreme heat and power levels well beyond silicon. GaN devices have commercial use in lighting as well as high-powered transistors for mobile phone base stations. They also have tremendous military potential, and major US defence contractors – including Northrup-Grumman and Raytheon – have pursued significant research and development in GaN for use in radar and satellite communications.
Security and technology experts consulted by the FT reviewed the project plan and all noted its civilian and potential military applications. Robert York, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara – a world leader in GaN research and where Shane earned a doctorate in silicon devices – said it would be “unnerving but not surprising” if Huawei were to be trying to advance its GaN technology. The high-powered amplifier has civilian use but “could be used for a number of military applications: high-powered radar, electronic warfare including signal jamming and even potentially some weapons”, Professor York added.
Shane, it turns out, had deep misgivings about the project he was working on and feared he was compromising US national security. His family wants to know whether that project sent him to his grave.
Read the full article here
Huawei is a security risk to US
The Chinese firm, Huawei, has been labeled a security risk by the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee due in part to its ties to the People’s Liberation Army, and it has also been banned from participating in the Australian broadband network. And allegations of “stealing” intellectual property has been rife since 2003 when Cisco took civil actions against Huawei.
IME received funding from US
According to an article in billingsgazette.com, IME received nearly $500,000 in 2010 in Defense Department sub-grants. And the senators in Montana have proposed blocking of funding to IME till FBI sees records/evidence of Shane’s death.
Shanmugam visits US Capital to reassure them
Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam made a visit to the US to reassure that no improper transfer of technology took place between the Institute of Microelectronics (IME) and Huawei Technologies. He also said that IME was “subject to rigorous internal audits, and there had been no illegal transfers of technology”.
However IME told the Australian, “the institute did not go beyond preliminary talks with Huawei on a commercial project relating to GaN power amplifiers for base station applications. The institute does not have and has never had a project with Huawei on GaN power amplifiers.”
It is still unknown about the extent of these “preliminary talks.”
Minister Shanmugam is walking a diplomatic tight rope with allegations of murder and illegal transfer of technology to Huawei. He has also committed that the Singapore police will share evidence with the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in probing the disputed death of American researcher Shane Todd.
There are several questions surrounding this case and foremost was, why was the police quick to classify this as suicide before concluding the inquiry into this matter? Secondly, why wasn’t the crime scene secured? And thirdly, why is IME, a local institution getting grants from the US Department of Defense?
Copyleft Notice: Please accredit this piece to Kumaran Pillai and provide a backlink.