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Rubio urges Pentagon to remove ‘malicious’ Chinese-made cameras, calls them national security threat

Sen. Marco Rubio (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
November 07, 2019

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) urged the Pentagon to remove Chinese-made surveillance cameras in an open letter Wednesday, calling the cameras a threat to national security.

Rubio, a vocal critic of Chinese espionage in the United States and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, asked in the letter addressed to Defense Secretary Mark Esper what steps are being taken to prevent Chinese-made cameras from spying on the United States.

The cameras’ developers, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. and Dahua Technology Co., were banned under the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“The Department of Defense must act quickly to identify and remove this equipment as every day that passes only provides our adversaries additional time to infiltrate and exploit our national security networks as well as the ability to monitor U.S. military activities that may be of interest,” Sen. Rubio wrote

He also asked if the Pentagon is “conducting a more comprehensive survey of the counterintelligence vulnerabilities posed by all Chinese-sourced products currently in use within U.S. military installations” and if “the DoD considered removing these technologies in addition to the prohibition on procurement?”

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The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon will respond to Rubio directly, but offered no further comment.

Rubio has been vocal in his opposition to Chinese spying. In October, he asked the Treasury Department to conduct an investigation into the popular TikTok app, which was made by a Chinese company, to see if it poses a security threat or censors content that might upset Chinese leaders.

“Today I will be asking CFIUS to review #TikTok’s acquisition of Musical.ly . Ample & growing evidence exists that TikTok’s platform for western markets, including the U.S., are censoring content in line with #China’s communist government directives,” Rubio wrote on Twitter at the time.

“[I] Have already formally asked Trump administration to fully enforce anti-boycott laws that prohibit any U.S. person—including U.S. subsidiaries of Chinese companies from complying with foreign boycotts seeking to coerce U.S. companies to conform with #China’s government views,” he added.

On Nov. 1, the Treasury Department began an investigation into TikTok.

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“While we cannot comment on ongoing regulatory processes, TikTok has made clear that we have no higher priority than earning the trust of users and regulators in the U.S. Part of that effort includes working with Congress and we are committed to doing so,” a TikTok spokesman told Reuters.

Rubio also praised an executive order from President Donald Trump in May that banned Huawei, a Chinese phone maker, from the United States.

Huawei is “a state-directed instrument of national power used by the Chinese government and Communist Party to destroy their international competitors, undermine U.S. companies, spy on foreign countries, and steal intellectual property and trade secrets,” Rubio said.

Chinese companies deny their equipment is being used to spy on the U.S. government.

A spokesman for Hikvision told The WSJ that the company ensured its products were secure and adhered to federal-government standards.