White House Quietly Probes Chinese Tech Firm For Possibly Harvesting Data From Military Bases, Missile Silos
A staff member of Huawei uses her mobile phone at the Huawei Digital Transformation Showcase in Shenzhen, China's Guangdong province on March 6, 2019. - Chinese telecom giant Huawei insisted on March 6 its products feature no security "backdoors" for the government, as the normally secretive company gave foreign media a peek inside its state-of-the-art facilities.
WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration has been investigating Chinese technology company Huawei over concerns that cell towers using its devices are transmitting data on military bases and missile silos to China, according to a Wednesday report from Reuters.

Officials are concerned that Huawei, based in Shenzhen, China, could acquire information about the readiness status of nearby military bases. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Brendan Carr told the outlet that cell towers near Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana run on Huawei technology, presenting 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,” Carr told Reuters.

Likewise, Crystal Rhoades of the Nebraska Public Service Commission warned that cell towers owned by Viaero — which sources 80% of its equipment from Huawei — could compromise missile silos at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in nearby Wyoming. “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 explained to Reuters.

The Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., did not confirm the specific allegations made by the officials. “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,” the embassy said.

Huawei operates in 170 countries and employs more than 195,000 people. In addition to facing scrutiny from American regulators, the United Kingdom banned firms from installing new Huawei 5G network kits in 2020. Last year, a report from The Washington Post revealed that Huawei is involved in voice recording analysis, detention center monitoring, police surveillance in the province of Xinjiang, and other Chinese government initiatives.

The U.S. Department of Commerce subpoenaed Huawei in April 2021 to seek information about the firm’s policy on sharing information captured by their technology with foreign entities. The agency told Reuters that it could not “confirm or deny ongoing investigations,” adding that protecting Americans’ “safety and security against malign information collection is vital to protecting our economy and national security.”

Last year, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to prohibit American investments in Huawei and other Chinese firms that “undermine the security or democratic values of the United States and our allies.” Former President Donald Trump filed criminal charges against Huawei in 2019 for allegedly stealing technology.

In 2018, six Trump administration officials told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Americans should refrain from purchasing Huawei and ZTE cell phones.

“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” FBI Director Chris Wray testified. “That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure. It provides the capacity to modify or steal information maliciously. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”

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