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Huawei bid challenged

A group of eight senior Republican senators on Wednesday called on the Obama administration to investigate whether national security will be compromised by the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei seeking to sell equipment to Sprint Nextel, which provides goods to the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies.

The senators, led by Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, wrote to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and Martha N. Johnson, head of the General Services Administration, posing a series of questions about the proposed Huawei-Sprint deal.

“We are concerned that Huawei’s position as a supplier of Sprint Nextel could create substantial risk for U.S. companies and possibly undermine U.S. national security,” they stated.

The senators then outlined what they said was Huawei’s past sales of telecommunications goods to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, along with its current relations with Iran, including the Iranian military.

Huawei’s link to the Iranian military “suggests that Huawei should be prohibited from doing business with the U.S. government” under current Iran sanctions, they said, noting reports that Huawei also is working closely with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which is under U.S. sanction for its role in Iran’s nuclear program.

“A Chinese company with such a leading role in Iran’s economy and close relationship with the IRGC should not be able to do business in the U.S.,” the senators said.

However, the “most troubling” aspect of the proposed Huawei-Sprint deal is the Chinese company’s “direct ties” to the Chinese military, the senators said.

Huawei’s connections to the Chinese military have raised concerns among the intelligence services of Britain, France, Australia and India, which have stated that Huawei equipment could “facilitate remote hacking” and compromise telecommunications networks in those countries.

“At worst, Huawei’s becoming a major supplier of Sprint Nextel could present a case of a company, acting at the direction of and funded by the Chinese military, taking a critical place in the supply chain of the U.S. military, law enforcement and private sector,” the senators said.

Scott Sloat, a Sprint Nextel spokesman, declined to comment. Huawei did not respond to a message left on the company’s website.

Chinese Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong said he was not familiar with the Huawei-Sprint deal but added, “Chinese corporations like Huawei want to do business and make investment in the U.S. by following rules of market and on the basis of win-win for both.

“We hope that some people in the U.S. will take a rational approach toward these normal commercial activities rather than do anything to stand in the way by abusing ‘national security’ concern,” he said.

A congressional aide close to the issue said U.S. companies doing business with Huawei or other military-linked companies “need to think very carefully about who they’re doing business with.”

“There is clear evidence that Huawei will steal corporate secrets from anyone it does business with, like Motorola and Cisco,” the aide said.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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