Lawmakers Raise Security Concerns With Google Over Partnership With Chinese Telecom Company

Sen. Tom Cotton / Getty Images

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers have raised concerns with Google CEO Sundar Pichai over his company's partnership with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, writing in a letter it could pose a risk to U.S. national security.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Rep. Mike Conway (R., Texas), Rep. Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D., Md.) signed the letter discussing Huawei's ties to the communist Chinese government.

"We write to express our concerns about Google’s ‘strategic partnership' with Huawei Technologies. Chinese telecommunications companies, such as Huawei, have extensive ties with the Chinese Communist Party. As a result, this partnership between Google and Huawei could pose a serious risk to U.S. national security and American consumers," they wrote.

The letter quoted FBI Director Christopher Wray, who testified in February he was "deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks.'

The lawmakers urged Google to "reconsider" its partnership with Huawei and called out the tech juggernaut for not renewing its research partnership, called "Project Maven," with the Pentagon.

"While we regret that Google did not want to continue a long and fruitful tradition of collaboration between the military and technology companies, we are even more disappointed that Google apparently is more willing to support the Chinese Communist Party than the U.S. military," they wrote.

The full text of the letter can be found here and is also displayed below:

Dear Mr. Pichai:

We write to express our concerns about Google’s "strategic partnership" with Huawei Technologies. Chinese telecommunications companies, such as Huawei, have extensive ties with the Chinese Communist Party. As a result, this partnership between Google and Huawei could pose a serious risk to U.S. national security and American consumers.

Since the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released its investigative report on the national-security issues posed by Chinese telecommunications firms in 2012, U.S. officials have publicly raised concerns about Huawei’s ties to the Chinese government. During a February 2018 hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the heads of six U.S. intelligence agencies warned American citizens not to use Huawei products or services. At the same hearing, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray testified that he was "deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks." The concerns of the Intelligence Community are well founded: recent reports indicate that a former U.S. intelligence officer charged with spying for the Chinese government used Huawei technology to communicate with his handlers.

In fact, Congress is considering a number of bipartisan measures to address the threat posed by Huawei. Earlier this year, we introduced the Defending U.S. Government Communications Act, which would prohibit the U.S. government from purchasing or leasing telecommunications equipment or services from Huawei or other Chinese telecommunications companies. Both chambers of Congress have included elements of this bill in the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. In addition, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a measure that would bar the use of the FCC’s Universal Service Fund to purchase equipment or services from companies deemed a national-security risk, including Huawei. Over the coming months, the federal government will likely take further measures to defend U.S. telecommunications networks from Huawei and companies like it.

We urge you to reconsider Google’s partnership with Huawei, particularly since your company recently refused to renew a key research partnership, Project Maven, with the Department of Defense. This project uses artificial intelligence to improve the accuracy of U.S. military targeting, not least to reduce civilian casualties. While we regret that Google did not want to continue a long and fruitful tradition of collaboration between the military and technology companies, we are even more disappointed that Google apparently is more willing to support the Chinese Communist Party than the U.S. military.

Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to your response, including the rationale for your decision to partner with Huawei but not the U.S. military, as well as your plans to mitigate the grave risks of working with Huawei.

Cotton and Rubio co-sponsored an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act earlier this month to respond to the threats posed by Huawei and ZTE.

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