TL;DR: The US Department of Commerce is actively investigating Chinese technology corporation Huawei over concerns that equipment installed on US cell towers near military bases and missile silos could capture sensitive information and pass it along to China.
Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters the probe launched shortly after President Joe Biden took office in early 2021. A 10-page document viewed by Reuters points to a 2021 subpoena to learn more about how Huawei shares data with foreign parties.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr claims cell towers near Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana once utilized Huawei technology. Data from phones that communicated using those towers could reveal vital information about military actions, like troop movements.
“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,” Carr said.
The publication reached out to the Commerce Department, but was told it could not confirm or deny ongoing investigations. A spokesperson did add that “protecting US persons’ safety and security against malign information collection is vital to protecting our economy and national security.”
Huawei was also pinged for comment but did not respond to the request. In an e-mailed statement from the Chinese embassy in Washington, a spokesperson said the US 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 US and other countries.
Reuters said it was unable to determine what actions the agency might be able to take should it deem Huawei a national security threat, nor could it determine if Huawei’s equipment is even capable of collecting and sharing that sort of sensitive information.
The US government has long accused Huawei of spying on behalf of the Chinese government. In 2018, President Trump signed a defense bill prohibiting the US government and its contractors from using certain tech from Huawei, ZTE and other Chinese firms. A year, Huawei was added to an export blacklist maintained by the government.
Image credit: Matthew Childs | Reuters, Sigmund