President Joe Biden’s administration is investigating the Chinese technology firm Huawei due to concerns that China could spy on the U.S. and obtain information on U.S. military bases and ballistic missile silos through cell towers equipped with Huawei’s tech.
Officials believe China could capture sensitive information on the U.S. military through the firm’s equipment, according to two people familiar with the situation who spoke with Reuters.
The Commerce Department — which started the investigation in early 2021 shortly after Biden was sworn in as president — subpoenaed Huawei in April last year to determine if the firm would share data it obtained from cell phones with foreign entities. The information that Huawei can capture includes messages and geolocation data, a 10-page document reviewed by Reuters revealed.
The department refused to “confirm or deny ongoing investigations” and said “protecting U.S. persons’ safety and security against malign information collection is vital to protecting our economy and national security.”
When asked about Huawei, the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. said in a statement, “The U.S. government abuses the concept of national security and state power to go all out to suppress Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications companies without providing any solid proof that they constitute a security threat to the U.S. and other countries.”
Two sources and an FCC commissioner expressed particular concern over cell towers fitted with Huawei equipment that are located near military and intelligence spaces.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr warned about Huawei tech-equipped cell towers near Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
“There’s a very real concern that some of that technology could be used as an early warning system if there happened to be, God forbid, an ICBM missile strike,” he told Reuters.
Crystal Rhoades, a telecommunications commissioner in Nebraska, had similar warnings about cell phone towers near intercontinental ballistic missile silos in her state.
“An enemy state could potentially see when things are online, when things are offline, the level of security, how many people are on duty in any given building where there are really dangerous and sophisticated weapons,” Rhoades said.
Former Department of Justice official Rick Sofield — who worked in the national security division — said the latest investigation into Huawei is part of “widely known” U.S. national security concerns.
“The U.S. government’s concerns regarding Huawei are widely known so any information or communications technology company that continues to use Huawei products is assuming the risk that the U.S. government will come knocking,” said Sofield, who now works for U.S. and foreign companies dealing with national security reviews.
FBI Director Christopher Wray previously warned that Chinese tech companies like Huawei could be used by the Chinese Communist Party to spy on the U.S.
“If Chinese companies like Huawei are given unfettered access to our telecommunications infrastructure, they could collect any of your information that traverses their devices or networks,” Wray warned during a 2020 speech. “Worse still: They’d have no choice but to hand it over to the Chinese government, if asked.”
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated five Chinese technology firms, including Huawei, as national security threats to the U.S., affirming President Donald Trump’s administration’s earlier designation in June 2020.