China’s state-run Global Times on Sunday mocked a CNN report that said the FBI is concerned about equipment from Chinese telecom giant Huawei installed on cell towers near American military bases. “How scary is this!” the Chinese paper sarcastically exclaimed.
The Global Times was swiftly responding to a CNN exclusive from the weekend that described “a frenzy of counterintelligence activity by the FBI and other federal agencies focused on what career U.S. security officials say has been a dramatic escalation of Chinese espionage on U.S. soil over the past decade.”
In particular, the article claimed the FBI is concerned about Chinese buyers snapping up land near “critical infrastructure,” and potentially compromised Chinese network equipment installed near American military bases:
Among the most alarming things the FBI uncovered pertains to Chinese-made Huawei equipment atop cell towers near US military bases in the rural Midwest. According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, the FBI determined the equipment was capable of capturing and disrupting highly restricted Defense Department communications, including those used by US Strategic Command, which oversees the country’s nuclear weapons.
While broad concerns about Huawei equipment near US military installations have been well known, the existence of this investigation and its findings have never been reported. Its origins stretch back to at least the Obama administration. It was described to CNN by more than a dozen sources, including current and former national security officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) July 25, 2022
CNN’s anonymous sources allegedly said the U.S. intelligence community has not clearly determined if China has used this equipment to intercept sensitive data, in part because proving such an electronic theft took place would be incredibly difficult, but there is “no question” the Huawei equipment would be capable of intercepting both commercial and military cell traffic.
These intelligence sources also allegedly believe the Chinese equipment installed near U.S. bases could “disrupt critical US Strategic Command communications, giving the Chinese government a potential window into America’s nuclear arsenal.”
One anonymous source said the threat belongs in the “BFD category,” while others said the long-running top-secret counterintelligence investigation played a role in the decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to restrict the use of Chinese telecom equipment in 2019.
Congress approved $1.9 billion in funding in 2020 to remove equipment made by Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese companies from rural cell networks, but “two years later, none of that equipment has been removed and rural telecom companies are still waiting for federal reimbursement money.”
As always, Huawei denied that its equipment has been compromised by Chinese military intelligence, a denial the Global Times took as gospel while mocking the CNN report for quoting alarmist warnings from anonymous sources.
The Global Times argued the whole report was just a cynical attempt to slander Chinese companies and perpetuate bans on their equipment to benefit their American competitors.
“One might ask, are the communications defense capabilities of the Pentagon or even the U.S. nuclear chain of command so weak? Can a civilian cell tower device easily monitor or jam them? Where does the U.S. spend its annual defense budget of more than $800 billion? Or has Huawei’s technology reached a mythical and unfathomable level of development?” the Chinese paper sneered.
Some of those questions were addressed in the CNN report, but the Global Times decided to ignore those passages, nor did it ask if China would allow foreign companies to set up cellular networking equipment in close proximity to Chinese military bases.
“For years, Washington has been making up lies about Huawei and ‘security threats from China.’ But it still hasn’t found a single piece of solid evidence. It can rely only on fabricating new lies to layer over the old ones, proving that US lies are simply embarrassing in the face of reality,” the Global Times railed.
Another Global Times article on Sunday trotted out a bevy of “Chinese experts” to confidently assure readers that American rural telecom operators would have detected any Chinese interception systems seeded into their hardware and the U.S. military is so good at protecting its communications that it would be “impossible” for Huawei to intercept them. Doubtless rural telecom operators and the U.S. military establishment will be flattered by these testaments of absolute faith in their abilities.
“The key is, if Huawei is able to complete these preconditions, it requires local operators to cooperate with Huawei. Would U.S. operators like to do so? The answer is obviously no,” Beijing-based analyst Xiang Ligang asserted.