Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The Pentagon has banned the sale of smartphones made by Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. and ZTE Corporation in retail outlets inside U.S. military bases worldwide out of concern these Chinese made devices are an unacceptable security risk.
It ordered these Chinese smartphones and related products be removed from U.S. military bases on April 25. A total ban on U.S. military personnel using Huawei and ZTE phones is widely expected to be implemented within the year because of valid concerns these phones can be used to either spy on or track the location of their owners.
“These devices may pose an unacceptable risk to the department’s personnel, and mission,” said Pentagon spokesman Major Dave Eastburn. “In light of this information, it was not prudent for the department’s exchanges to continue selling them.”
Defense officials have said China has ordered Huawei and ZTE, the two leading smartphone makers, to install “backdoors” that transform their phones into devices that spy on their users. Of particular concern to the Pentagon is that these phones can be used to pinpoint a soldier or soldiers exact coordinates and track their movements.
The smartphone sale ban follows a similar punitive measure against ZTE in April in which the U.S. Department of Commerce banned U.S. exports to after the company failed to meet a plea agreement after it pleaded guilty to illegally shipping U.S. equipment to North Korea and Iran. The Department of Justice is also probing Huawei for violating sanctions against Iran.
In January, the U.S. Congress introduced a bill to ban U.S. government agencies from using phones and equipment made by Huawei and ZTE. In February, the Director of National Intelligence; the heads of the FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency; Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Glossarial Intelligence Agency testified before the U.S. Senate that Huawei products pose a potential security risk to users.
In April, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 5-0 to forbid the use of government subsidies to purchase telecom equipment from companies such as Huawei and ZTE deemed to be a risk to national security. A draft of the policy statement specifically named Huawei and ZTE as examples.
Huawei is the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world and was founded by Ren Zhengfei, a former officer in the People’s Liberation Army. It’s a multinational networking, telecommunications equipment and services company based in Shenzhen. Also based in Shenzhen, ZTE manufactures smartphones, wireless, exchange, access, optical transmission and data telecommunications equipment.
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