Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) introduced a bill Wednesday to prohibit government use of telecommunications products from two Chinese companies.
The Defending U.S. Government Communications Act would prohibit the U.S. government from purchasing or leasing equipment or services from Huawei or ZTE, according to a statement from Cotton’s office. Cotton said the government should not trust devices from companies so closely linked to the Chinese communist government.
"Huawei is effectively an arm of the Chinese government, and it’s more than capable of stealing information from U.S. officials by hacking its devices," Cotton said. "There are plenty of other companies that can meet our technology needs, and we shouldn’t make it any easier for China to spy on us."
Rubio said the government ought to guard its critical infrastructure closely.
"Chinese telecom companies, like Huawei, are directly linked to the Chinese government and communist party. For national security reasons, we cannot allow a foreign adversary to embed their technology in U.S. government systems or critical infrastructure" Rubio said.
In January, Rep. Mike Conway (R., Texas) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. He said the Defending U.S. Government Communications Act serves President Donald Trump’s national security agenda.
"Allowing Huawei, ZTE, and other related entities access to U.S. government communications would be inviting Chinese surveillance into all aspects of our lives. This legislation falls directly in line with President Trump’s policy of putting American national security interests first, a policy I’m proud to support," Conaway said.
China has engaged in large scale intelligence operations against U.S. targets in the past. A 2012 House Intelligence Committee report concluded that using devices from Huawei or ZTE posed a danger to national security.
"U.S. government systems, particularly sensitive systems, should not include Huawei or ZTE equipment, including in component parts," the report said.