White House denies Huawei investigation report

A White House spokeswoman is denying a report that an investigation requested by the White House into whether telecommunications equipment makers pose security risks to American companies yielded no definitive proof that Huawei has spied on behalf of China.

Reuters, citing two people familiar with the investigation, reported that an 18-month-long classified review found that Huawei's telecommunications equipment included security vulnerabilities that hackers could use to infiltrate computer systems, but came up empty handed regarding evidence proving Huawei had spied on the U.S.

But White House spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said officials have not conducted an investigation that has cleared any telecom equipment maker.

"The White House has not conducted any classified inquiry that resulted in clearing any telecom equipment supplier as reported in Reuters," Hayden said in an e-mail. "In October of last year, Huawei was excluded from taking part in the building of America’s interoperable, wireless emergency network for first responders due to U.S. Government national security concerns," she added.

ADVERTISEMENT
Reports said the review could not determine whether the security vulnerabilities found in Huawei's equipment were intentionally placed there. Intelligence agencies and departments that reportedly helped conduct the probe interviewed nearly 1,000 telecom buyers to ask if there was any suspicion of nefarious activity associated with Huawei and others.

The Reuters report comes on the heels of the release of a scathing House Intelligence Committee report on Huawei and China-based ZTE earlier this month. The committee's year-long investigation concluded that Huawei and ZTE pose a national security risk to the U.S. and recommended that American companies should not use their equipment. 

"We knew certain parts of government really wanted" evidence of Huawei engaging in espionage, one of the sources told Reuters about the investigation.

Huawei's U.S. spokesman William Plummer said in a statement that the company is not familiar with the review but is "not surprised to hear that the White House has concluded there is no evidence of any Huawei involvement with any espionage or non-commercial activities."

However, Plummer added that every telecom equipment maker's equipment contains vulnerabilities that hackers may exploit and Huawei "welcomes the opportunity" to review the inquiry.

"While the quality and integrity of Huawei’s solutions are world-proven by over 500 operators across 150 markets, to the extent that the study identifies vulnerabilities, Huawei welcomes the opportunity to review the study to determine if such vulnerabilities are real and, if so, to address them, if not, to clarify the facts," Plummer said.

--This report was originally posted at 6:27 p.m. and last updated at 7:50 p.m.