Cell phone towers across the US Midwest were capable of capturing Pentagon communications, the FBI told CNN
The U.S. government has blocked efforts to remove Huawei telecommunications equipment that the FBI says could have spied on and disrupted communications at U.S. military bases, including those housing nuclear missiles, CNN reported Saturday.
Amid a sweeping crackdown on Chinese technology under the Trump administration, Congress approved $1.9 billion in funding in 2019 to remove Huawei and ZTE telecommunications equipment across the United States. However, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) told lawmakers last week that stripping US networks of this Chinese equipment would cost between $4.7 billion and $4.98 billion.
Much of that equipment remains in place, and while President Joe Biden’s administration largely continued the efforts of his predecessor, Donald Trump, to purge the United States of Chinese communications technology, a Commerce Department investigation on Huawei’s business is progressing slowly, CNN reported. .
Meanwhile, this technology may have posed an acute security risk to the United States, Reuters reported on Thursday. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr told the outlet that cell towers around Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana – which controls several missile sites in the United States – use Huawei technology, as do two others sites in Nebraska and Wyoming.
The FBI believes this Huawei equipment was capable of collecting and disrupting Pentagon communications, unnamed sources told CNN. US Strategic Command, the command in charge of US nuclear deterrence and global strike forces, may have had communications cut off, the sources added.
It is unclear whether any data was actually intercepted by the Huawei towers, let alone whether any was sent back to Beijing. The Chinese government has consistently denied using the country’s tech companies to spy on the West, and Huawei told CNN that all of its products imported into the United States meet FCC specifications and cannot access any communications spectrum. controlled by the Pentagon.
“For more than 30 years, Huawei has a proven track record in cybersecurity and we have never been involved in any malicious cybersecurity incidents,” the company said in a statement.
The charges come at a time of growing competition between the United States and China, with Biden publicly discussing a potential military conflict between the two superpowers and FBI Director Christopher Wray warning Western business leaders that Beijing is engaged in “invasive” spying and data theft.
Yet, while the latest US national defense strategy calls “the [China] challenge in the Indo-Pacific” as its greatest military challenge and seeks to rally its allies in formal and informal alliances against Beijing, the alleged threat posed by Huawei predates both the Trump and Biden administrations.
As early as the Obama administration, the FBI monitored the installation of Huawei routers on cell towers in every Midwestern state. Sometimes selling its wares at a loss to small US telecom providers, by 2021 Huawei had installed its equipment on around 1,000 towers, covering an area along the borders of Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado that is home to a dense cluster of silos nuclear missiles.
When the FBI investigated this proliferation of equipment, they found that Huawei weather and traffic cameras had also been installed, and an agency report claiming that this data had been sent back to China prompted the bill to 2019 ordering the removal of the equipment.
Amid US accusations and Chinese denials, Beijing has also claimed US tech companies collect information in China. Tesla vehicles have been banned from many places in China, including the resort town where Chinese leaders hold their summer retreat, over fears their cameras could be used to capture sensitive data.