On Sunday, a 60 Minutes investigation into the Chinese telecommunications and technology company Huawei revealed how the Chinese government could exploit the company’s increasing presence in the United States to spy on U.S. businesses and intelligence networks. The report noted the U.S. government was asleep at the wheel by not protecting a telecommunications industry it used to dominate.
On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee will release findings of a year-long investigation outlining the potential dangers of doing business with Chinese technology and telecommunications firms like Huawei.
"The United States should view with suspicion the continued penetration of the U.S. telecommunications market by Chinese telecommunications companies," the report's authors concluded, according a draft obtained by the National Journal.
Mike Rogers (R-MI), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told “60 Minutes” American companies should avoid doing business with Huawei.
“If I were an American company today, and I'll tell you this as the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and you are looking at Huawei, I would find another vendor if you care about your intellectual property, if you care about your consumers' privacy, and you care about the national security of the United States of America,” Rogers said.
Steve Kroft, the 60 Minutes anchor, noted the overriding concern of the U.S. intelligence community is this: “the Chinese government could exploit Huawei's presence on U.S. networks to intercept high level communications, gather intelligence, wage cyber war, and shut down or disrupt critical services in times of national emergency.”
Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said “one of the main reasons we are having this investigation is to educate the citizens in business in the United States of America.”
“In the telecommunications world, once you get the camel's nose in the tent, you can go anywhere.” Ruppersberger said.
Jim Lewis, who “60 Minutes” said “has followed Huawei's explosive growth for years from the State Department and the Commerce Department,” said foreign technology companies like Huawei pose a national security threat because, like the aircraft and space industries, telecommunications “is a strategic industry.”
“It's a strategic industry in the sense that an opponent can gain serious advantage, can gain serious benefit from being able to exploit the telecommunications network,” Lewis said.
Chris Johnson, a former top CIA analyst on China, said the Chinese military “has always played a role in Chinese telecommunications” and Huawei’s CEO was a Chinese army major “in telecommunications research before he retired and founded Huawei, supposedly with a few thousand dollars in savings and no help from the Chinese government.”
The report noted that what has been more alarming is that in the “in the last couple of years, Huawei has managed to install and maintain a handful of networks in U.S. rural markets, including a vast quadrant of southwestern Kansas.”
Lewis, who had tracked Huawei at the State and Commerce Departments, said most insiders see the Maoist strategy at play called “"Win the countryside, surround the cities, and then the cities will fall."
“Huawei seems to be following that Maoist strategy,” Lewis said.
He noted that the U.S. government was also to blame for allowing this threat to emerge.
“Some of it was a lack of attention by the government,” Lewis said. “I mean, we would not have let the space industry go out of business.... But we didn't do that for telecom.”
The Chinese government in the past has aggressively and cleverly tried to steal the most guarded secrets from U.S. corporations and government agencies, and this report shows how intent and emboldened the Chinese government is in continuing their attempts to infiltrate U.S. corporations and businesses.