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Chinese Telecom giant Huawei can disrupt US defence and nuclear communications: FBI probe reveals CCP’s sinister plans

As per an exclusive report by CNN, FBI investigation has unearthed the presence of Huawei equipment atop cell towers near military installations posed a serious threat to US Strategic Command, responsible for overseeing the nuclear arsenal of the country.

Amidst growing concerns about Chinese State-run espionage, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has found that cell towers equipped with Huawei equipment can capture restricted communications of the US Defense Department.

Huawei, a telecommunications company, has often been accused of spying on the behest of the Chinese government. As per an exclusive report by CNN, the presence of Huawei equipment atop cell towers near military installations posed a serious threat to US Strategic Command, responsible for overseeing the nuclear arsenal of the country.

“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,” the report added.

Screengrab of the CNN report

Citing sources, the American news outlet stated that the Huawei equipment can not only intercept commercial call traffic but also critical communications made by the US Strategic Command via restricted airwaves.

According to an FBI official, Huawei can get into the way of sensitive military information. “It would impact our ability for essentially command and control with the nuclear triad. That goes into the ‘BFD’ category…If it is possible for that to be disrupted, then that is a very bad day,” he added.

At this point, it remains unclear whether Huawei has already extracted data packages and sent it back to Beijing.   The probe by the FBI was kept a secret in the initial days and even senior policymakers of the government were not informed about it until 2019.

‘Rip and replace’ program marred by fund shortages

As part of its action plan, Congress approved a budget of $1.9 billion in 2020 to ‘rip and replace’ ZTE cellular technology and Huawei equipment from cell towers in rural America. However, the plan did not move forward due to a shortage of funds.
“But two years later, none of that equipment has been removed and rural telecom companies are still waiting for federal reimbursement money, reported CNN.

A year later in 2020, the US Justice Department highlighted the security risks posed by Huawei equipment to the Commerce Department and also provided information about their installations across the country.

The CNN report stated, “Among the concerns that national security officials noted was that external communication from the Huawei equipment that occurs when software is updated, for example, could be exploited by the Chinese government.”

When quizzed about the matter, FBI Director said that the Department of Justice charged the Chinese telecommunications company in 2020 with racketeering and conspiring to steal trade secrets.

He, however, dodged the question about the failure of the State to remove Huawei equipment from all cell towers in the country. Meanwhile, Huawei has dismissed claims of espionage and sending sensitive data to the Chinese government.

How FBI unearthed the Huawei conspiracy?

Since the tenure of President Barack Obama,Huawei had been partnering with small telecom providers to provide cheap routers and other crucial tech support in rural parts of the country.

Many such cell towers mushroomed along the arteries of Nebraska and stretches of Interstate 25 in Montana and Colorado. Interestingly, these corridors are located in the vicinity of critical military installations including a nuclear arsenal.

The telecom providers such as Viaero found Huawei as a cheap and reliable alternative in sparsely populated rural areas. Their fleet of cell towers began getting equipped with technology provided by the Chinese firm.

Over time, Huawei-equipped towers began to grow exponentially near US military bases. An investigation launched by the federal authorities found that the company was not making profits through its supply of cheap equipment to telecom providers in rural providers.

“Of particular concern was that Huawei was routinely selling cheap equipment to rural providers in cases that appeared to be unprofitable for Huawei — but which placed its equipment near military assets,” reported CNN.

Mushrooming of Huawei equipped cell towers near US military installations, image via CNN

Ex-FBI agent John Kenkart informed, “(We began) examining Huawei less from a technical lens and more from a business/financial view.” He added that several counter-intelligence concerns were unearthed based on searches of Huawei’s sales efforts in areas with no return on investment.

On further probe, the FBI discovered that Huawei equipment was capable of recognising and disrupting Defence Department communications. This was despite the fact that the equipment was cleared and certified by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Radio Spectrum expert Eduardo Rojas informed, “It’s not technically hard to make a device that complies with the FCC that listens to nonpublic bands but then is quietly waiting for some activation trigger to listen to other bands…Technically, it’s feasible.” 

He said technical experts would need to disassemble the Huawei equipment to semi-conductor level and reverse engineer the design to ascertain its ‘clandestine capabilities.’

Use of HD surveillance cameras and real estate properties

Besides installing cheap China-made routers atop cell towers, telecom companies such as Viaero also began mounting HD surveillance cameras to live-stream traffic and weather.

These cameras were installed on towers along stretches of Interstate 25, and thus inadvertently provided a 24/7 bird’s eye view of military installations and the movement of armed personnel.

“The intelligence community determined the publicly posted live streams were being viewed and likely captured from China, according to three sources familiar with the matter,” reported CNN.

It further added, “Two sources briefed on the investigation at the time said officials believed that it was possible for Beijing’s intelligence service to “task” the cameras — hack into the network and control where they pointed. At least some of the cameras in question were running on Huawei networks.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation also probed real-estate investments, such as the purchase of land or factory, by Chinese companies near sensitive military installations.

“In one instance, officials shut down what they believed was a risky commercial deal near highly sensitive military testing installations in Utah sometime after the beginning of the I-25 investigation, according to one former US official. The military has a test and training range for hypersonic weapons in Utah, among other things. Sources declined to provide more details,” read the report by CNN.

Similarly, in July 2020, the US government ordered the Chinese government to shut down the office of the Consulate General of China in Houston over allegations of espionage.

Huawei defends itself   

“All of our products imported to the US have been tested and certified by the FCC before being deployed there. Our equipment only operates on the spectrum allocated by the FCC for commercial use. This means it cannot access any spectrum allocated to the DOD,” the company told CNN.

It further claimed, “For more than 30 years, Huawei has maintained a proven track record in cyber security and we have never been involved in any malicious cyber security incidents.”

According to national counter-intelligence expert Bill Evanina, it has been a challenging task for the federal authorities to differentiate between espionage and a legitimate business. He pointed out that both can co-exist at the same time.

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