The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) held a hearing this week as part of an ongoing HPSCI investigation into the national security threats posed by the Chinese telecommunications companies, Huawei and ZTE. Rep. Westmoreland is the Chairman of the HPSCI Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Last year, American companies reported a loss of over $300 billion in trade secrets to the Chinese government through cyber attacks. During the hearing, members of the committee questioned Huawei and ZTE representatives about Chinese government involvement in private Chinese companies -- specifically telecommunications companies -- and how that involvement could create vulnerabilities for American companies. China remains the most active country involved in economic espionage, and reports indicate bugging, beaconing, and software vulnerability within these telecommunication companies.
"We had this hearing because we need to understand the national security threats posed by allowing Chinese telecom companies to provide equipment for our networks," stated Westmoreland. "We must be certain that companies doing business in the United States are not inserting back doors that enable spying on the American people, jeopardizing our national security. I would like to thank Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Ruppersberger for holding this hearing. "
Unfortunately, these companies have been reluctant to provide proper documents to the committee. The committee has requested detailed information from Huawei and ZTE regarding the level of involvement by the Chinese government with their companies and their dealings with countries, such as Iran. However, the committee has yet to receive concrete answers from either company on a number of questions. At the hearing, on several occasions, representatives from these companies gave vague answers or failed to directly answer questions.
"At the end of the day, they aren't giving us the answers we're asking for," stated Westmoreland. "We've traveled to China to meet with them, and they have met with us here, but they are still reluctant to give clear answers that would remove our doubts about the security of their equipment and their independence from the Chinese government. It is frustrating and, if ZTE and Huawei truly want to operate within the United States, I strongly encourage them to provide the documents we have requested and directly answer the questions we have asked of them."
For their part, the Huawei and ZTE witnesses blamed their lack of compliance on American laws, Chinese laws, and international laws being in conflict. They emphasized the fact that they strive to respect and comply with all applicable laws, but were vague when asked if following American law is a priority in their international sales and distribution.