A recent FBI investigation has uncovered shocking details regarding equipment made by Chinese electronics firm Huawei.
According to CNN, which reported the findings exclusively, in 2017 the Chinese government offered to spend $100 million for the construction of an “ornate Chinese garden” at Washington, D.C.’s National Arboretum. The project was to include temples, pavilions, and a 70-foot white pagoda. Local officials were thrilled, as they imagined that thousands of tourists would flock to the exhibit annually.
“But when US counterintelligence officials began digging into the details, they found numerous red flags. The pagoda, they noted, would have been strategically placed on one of the highest points in Washington DC, just two miles from the US Capitol, a perfect spot for signals intelligence collection, multiple sources familiar with the episode told CNN,” the network reported.
“Also alarming was that Chinese officials wanted to build the pagoda with materials shipped to the US in diplomatic pouches, which US Customs officials are barred from examining, the sources said,” the report added, noting that the project was quietly canceled by federal officials prior to the beginning of construction.
But the project was reflective of a rapid escalation of Chinese espionage operations on U.S. soil that began in earnest about a decade ago, and are ongoing. That said, CNN reports that the FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies have learned additional shocking details about how extensive Beijing’s threat likely is on U.S. soil:
Since at least 2017, federal officials have investigated Chinese land purchases near critical infrastructure, shut down a high-profile regional consulate believed by the US government to be a hotbed of Chinese spies and stonewalled what they saw as clear efforts to plant listening devices near sensitive military and government facilities.
Among the most alarming things the FBI uncovered pertains to Chinese-made Huawei equipment atop cell towers near US military bases in the rural Midwest. According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, the FBI determined the equipment was capable of capturing and disrupting highly restricted Defense Department communications, including those used by US Strategic Command, which oversees the country’s nuclear weapons.
There have been broad concerns regarding the use of electronics equipment made by Chinese firm Huawei that has been installed near U.S. military installations, many of them highly sensitive, the origins of which go back at least to the Obama administration.
The outlet went on to report that it’s not clear if the U.S. intelligence community has determined that sensitive communications were intercepted by the Chinese and sent back to Beijing’s spy agency via the towers. But sources tell CNN that is very difficult to determine anyway “from a technical standpoint.”
Naturally, the Chinese government vehemently denied that it uses Huawei equipment to spy on U.S. operations in a statement to CNN. The ChiCom government also denied that its equipment has the capability of even operating in the communications spectrum that the Defense Department uses.
But several sources who are familiar with the probe told the outlet that there is no doubt that Huawei gear has been designed with the capability not simply to intercept commercial cellphone traffic but also the extremely restricted airwaves utilized by the Pentagon as well as “disrupt critical U.S. Strategic Command communications, giving the Chinese government a potential window into America’s nuclear arsenal,” CNN noted.
The investigation was so secret that many top officials did not learn about it until 2019. That year, the Federal Communications Commission issued a rule that effectively banned small telecom companies from using Huawei equipment and other gear from Chinese manufacturers.
“The existence of the investigation at the highest levels turned some doves into hawks,” one former U.S. official told CNN.
Then-President Donald Trump sounded the alarm about the Huawei gear and took actions, along with Congress, to ban its use in the U.S. In May 2019 he signed an executive order “allowing the Commerce Department to stop U.S. companies from doing business with companies ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ of a foreign adversary, clearing a path to bar transactions with Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant that officials have labeled a national security threat,” Roll Call reported.
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