The US government is investigating Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei, according to news agency Reuters. The country’s concern is that US cell towers equipped with the Chinese company’s handsets could capture confidential information from military bases and missile silos and transmit it to China.
Brendan Carr, one of five commissioners at the US Federal Telecommunications Commission said cell phone towers around Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana — one of three that oversee missile fields in the United States — run on Huawei technology. In an interview this week, he told Reuters there is a risk that smartphone data obtained by Huawei could reveal troop movements near the sites.
Reuters was unable to determine the exact location of the Chinese company’s equipment operating near military installations. But people interviewed by the news outlet pointed to at least two other likely cases in Nebraska and Wyoming. Reuters sources requested anonymity because the investigation is confidential and involves national security, but the agency says it had access to a 10-page document.
The US Commerce Department opened investigations. at the beginning of last year. “Protecting the safety and security of US citizens against the collection of malicious information is vital to protecting our economy and national security,” the ministry said, according to Reuters, noting Huawei, for its part, declined to comment on the matter, but denied the US government’s allegations.
Without responding specifically on the matter, the Chinese Embassy in Washington stated by email: “The US government abuses the concept of national security and state power to do everything to suppress Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications companies without providing any solid evidence that they pose a threat to the security of US and other countries.”
The company has already received a series of sanctions from the US government. This time, if the Commerce Department determines that Huawei poses a threat to national security , restrictions may go beyond those already imposed by the Federal Te telecommunications.
Depending on the findings of investigators, it will be possible to ban all transactions in the country with Huawei, requiring telecom operators that still rely on their equipment to remove it immediately.
The news agency was unable to confirm whether Huawei’s equipment is capable of collecting information and providing it to China, but spoke to experts who point to the high possibility that this will be done.
“If you can put a receiver on a cell tower, you can also collect signals and that means you can get intelligence. No intelligence agency would pass up an opportunity like this,” Jim Lewis, a technology and cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think tank based in Washington.
An article published by Jimmy Quinn in National Review and translated by Gazeta do Povo deals with the company’s new focus China, of becoming a world leader in spy technology, with the potential to be deployed worldwide. According to Quinn, the launch of the new business unit “belies Huawei’s public relations and lobbying campaigns that strive to hide the notion well-founded belief that the company is loyal to the Chinese Communist Party.”