US Investigates Huawei Equipment Near Missile Silos, Military Bases

National security concerns have flared once again in the United States about China’s Huawei, amid concerns about the placement of its equipment near sensitive locations.

According to Reuters, citing two people familiar with the matter, the Biden administration is investigating Huawei over concerns that US mobile phone towers fitted with its gear could capture sensitive information from military bases and missile silos that the company could then transmit to China.

Huawei is already blacklisted in the United States over national security concerns. Former President Donald Trump declared the Chinese firm a national security threat back in May 2019.

US blacklist

The US ban essentially made it difficult or impossible for the Chinese company to access components such as microprocessors that utilise US design or manufacturing technology – a move that has had a big impact on Huawei.

Last August the US said it had not eased” its policies put into place by the previous administration against Huawei.

The following month the US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said the Biden administration would take further action against Huawei if necessary

Then in November 2021 President Joe Biden signed new legislation to prevent Huawei Technologies or ZTE Corp from receiving new equipment licenses from US regulators.

The US FCC meanwhile is currently funding the removal of Chinese telecoms equipment from its nationwide communications network – by reimbursing mostly rural US telecom carriers for removing Chinese network equipment.

US investigation

But now the US has reportedly begun investigating Huawei once again over another national security concern.

According to the report, American authorities are concerned Huawei could obtain sensitive data on military drills and the readiness status of bases and personnel via the equipment placed near military bases and missile silos, one of the people reportedly told Reuters.

The previously unreported probe was opened by the US Commerce Department shortly after Joe Biden took office early last year, the sources told Reuters, following the implementation of rules to flesh out a May 2019 executive order that gave the agency the investigative authority.

Huawei was subpoenaed by the department in April 2021 to learn the company’s policy on sharing data with foreign parties that its equipment could capture from cell phones, including messages and geolocational data, according to the 10-page document seen by Reuters.

The Commerce Department said it could not “confirm or deny ongoing investigations.” It added that: “protecting US persons’ safety and security against malign information collection is vital to protecting our economy and national security.”

Huawei did not respond to a request for comment.

The company has previously strongly denied US government allegations that it could spy on US customers and poses a national security threat.

It remains to be seen whether any Huawei’s equipment on mobile phone towers or masts is capable of collecting sensitive information and providing it to China.

Brendan Carr, one of the FCC’s five commissioners, was quoted as saying that towers around Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base – one of three that oversee missile fields in the United States – ran on Huawei technology.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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