Can Chinese Huawei equipment installed in the Midwest disrupt US nuclear communications?
Various reports have raised concerns over the ability of equipment from Chinese company Huawei to disrupt US nuclear communications technology.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has reportedly found equipment manufactured by Chinese technological company Huawei that the agency claims could intercept and harvest commerical data and possibly disrupt US nuclear communications. What was not clear from the reporting was how the devices made their way to the US.
In the exclusive article, detailing the threat to the US nuclear communication system, CNN provided details of the recently cancelled project by the Chinese government to build a 70-foot white pagoda at the National Arboretum in Washington DC. The project was nixed after the developer planned to import the materials in bundles that they said law enforcement agents were barred from examining upon import. After that piece of the agreement became clear, it was canceled by US officials.
The integration of Chinese products in US infrastructure
This called into question many other infrastructure projects funded by Chinese companies over fears of increased espionage. CNN reported that over the last five years, an investigation has found that Chinese companies have increased their purchases of land near critical infrastructure. The FBI claims that they have evidence of “a hotbed of Chinese spies” opperating in the US and what they “saw as clear efforts to plant listening devices near sensitive military and government facilities.”
The CNN report also details findings from an investigation that found that Chinese-made Huawei equipment on cell phone towers situated around US military bases in Midwestern states. There were concerns brought by the Department of Defense that the equipment would be able to disrupt communications, particularly “those used by US Strategic Command, which oversees the country’s nuclear weapons.”
In speaking with the FBI, the reporters were told that they believed the technology “would impact our ability for essentially command and control with the nuclear triad.”
It should be noted that it was just last year that the New York Times acquired a leaked CIA wire that “a troubling number” of US spies were being captured, flipped, and killed by the Chinese government. Espionage is a critical piece of a country’s foreign policy and while the government should inform the public of some threats uncovered, law enforcement would be misleading the public to paint the US as a victim of a one-sided intelligence relationship.
Little evidence has been provided
None of the findings have been published by the FBI or any other federal agnecy that can demonstrate the validity of the claims. This aspect was touched upon in CNN’s reporting when they said “Despite its tough talk, the US government’s refusal to provide evidence to back up its claims that Huawei tech poses a risk to US national security has led some critics to accuse it of xenophobic overreach.” These critisism are bolstered by attacks on other companies based in China, like Tik Tok.
In early mid-July, Brendan Carr, the Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, testified on the threat that Tik Tok poses to US national security. One of the main issues brought by the FCC was “TikTok officials have engaged in a pattern of misrepresentations regarding both the amount and type of sensitive data it collects as well as the extent to which that data has been accessed from inside China.” This a particular for current service members, veterans and their families who could have their data in an “attempt to expose them to blackmail, tailor intelligence spotting or recruitment activities to specific targets, or exert undue foreign influence in U.S. policymaking.”
But many of the vulnerabilities that Tik Tok or the Chinese Communist Party could exploit are a result of weak data protection laws in the United States. It is not to say that the risks are not real, but as we have seen on social media sites owned by US-based companies, the data protection issues are also extremely concerning.
Recently, political satirist John Oliver did an entire segment on the risks posed by personal data brokers who can profit and manipulate the public through control over data collected by their devices like cell phones and laptops.