“#Chinese telecom firms operated for decades in US without proper oversight”
June 9, 2020 | 9:43am
A sign for China Telecom 5G in Haikou, China
The bipartisan Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found failure to respond to national security threats posed by three firms – China Telecom Americas, China Unicom Americas and ComNet USA, The Hill reported.
Since 2002, the three companies have built relationships with major US carriers and established a presence across the country.
The Federal Communications Commission used Team Telecom, made up from officials in the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Defense, to oversee foreign telecom companies, the report said.
But the Senate report noted that Team Telecom did not have the statutory authority and resources to carry out that role.
It visited China Telecom Americas and ComNet USA twice in a decade and never interacted with China Unicom Americas.
The Senate report called on the FCC to review the three companies and create a process for revoking the authorizations if necessary.
It also urged Congress to give Team Telecom the authority needed to carry out its responsibilities.
“Since the Subcommittee launched its investigation, the agencies have increased their oversight of the Chinese state-owned carriers,” the report said. “The administration also recently issued an executive order establishing a formal committee to review the national security and law enforcement risks posed by foreign carriers operating in the United States.”
The report warned that because Team Telecom’s authority is limited, “our country, our privacy, and our information remain at risk.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the panel’s chairman, said he and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) the ranking Democrat on the committee, will introduce legislation to ensure the federal agencies have “the oversight and enforcement tools necessary to protect our telecommunications networks going forward.”
“The Chinese Communist Party uses its state-owned enterprises to further its cyber and economic espionage efforts against the United States, and they’ve been exploiting our telecommunications networks for nearly two decades while the federal government historically put in little effort to stop it,” Portman said in a statement.
The Trump administration has sounded warnings about the security threats posed by telecom companies and how they assist in espionage efforts for Chinese intelligence agencies.
In April, the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, State and Commerce recommended that the FCC remove China Telecom of its federal authorizations.
The FCC voted last year to block China Mobile from American markets.
The agency also put Chinese telecom giant Huawei on its “Entity List,” blacklisting the 5G equipment maker.
President Trump signed legislation banning federal agencies from buying equipment from Huawei because of national security concerns.
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