Graham warns of 5G security threat from China

Graham warns of 5G security threat from China
© Greg Nash

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats Congress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit MORE (R-S.C.) on Tuesday pressed the Trump administration to work with Congress on combatting security threats from 5G wireless technology, including stopping business with countries using Chinese technologies.

“You’ve got hardening our critical infrastructure here at home that is mostly private sector based,” Graham said, during a hearing of his committee on 5G national security threats. “Now we’ve got a developing technology called 5G that if China dominates this market, we may not be able to do normal business or function normally, and we are sitting around looking at each other.”

Graham added “we’ve got a bunch of bills being introduced, but it’s going to take administrative leadership, it’s going to take the Trump administration working with Congress, to deal with both problems.”

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Graham promised to “restart the conversation” around securing critical technology against threats from countries such as China, and vowed to offer foreign allies “a better alternative than what China has on the table” in regards to 5G, including options other than doing business with Chinese telecommunications company Huawei.

Following the hearing, Graham discussed the idea of not doing business with foreign governments that utilize Chinese technology in order to lower national security threats.

“It seems to me the policy of the United States is that the criteria we are asking foreign government to meet can never be met with the current China,” Graham told reporters. “Until China stops being a Communist dictatorship, we are not going to support working with a country that uses their technology.”

Huawei, which is under scrutiny over its ties to the Chinese government, is trying to ease concerns. Reuters reported Tuesday that Huawei Chairman Lang Hua pledged at a London conference that the company will sign “no-spy agreements” with foreign governments.

“We are willing to sign no-spy agreements with governments, including the UK government, to commit ourselves to making our equipment meet the no-spy, no-backdoors standard,” Hua said according to Reuters.

The British government has been debating allowing Huawei to provide 5G mobile technology to the country, with reports emerging last month that the government had decided to allow the company to provide “non-core” 5G technology to British companies.   

Back on Capitol Hill, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report Jeffrey Rosen officially sworn in as deputy attorney general This week: Democrats, White House set for infrastructure, budget talks MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told The Hill that she would support further hearings on the topic of 5G threats from China, but that she did not think “we are near legislation” on combating those threats yet.

Multiple Senate Republicans, however, are moving ahead with their own bills aimed at combatting 5G and supply chain threats from China.

Among these was the China Technology Transfer Control Act, introduced on Tuesday by Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyHillicon Valley: Lawmakers seek 'time out' on facial recognition tech | DHS asks cybersecurity staff to volunteer for border help | Judge rules Qualcomm broke antitrust law | Bill calls for 5G national security strategy The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Momentum grows to create 'Do Not Track' registry MORE (R-Mo.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would “formally admonish China” for the theft of intellectual property from the U.S., and place all “core technologies” from China’s Made in China 2025 strategy on the Department of Commerce’s export control list.

The Made in China 2025 strategy is a state-led effort to make China dominant in international technology manufacturing.

“It’s time to acknowledge that China acts more like an adversary than a friend,” Hawley said in a statement. “For too long, China has exploited American innovation to undermine our values and threaten our security. This legislation is an important step toward keeping American technology out of the hands of the Chinese government and its military.”

Another bill around 5G and supply chain threats introduced Tuesday was the Supply Chain Act, sponsored by Sens. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnHillicon Valley: Google delays cutting off Huawei | GOP senators split over breaking up big tech | Report finds DNC lagging behind RNC on cybersecurity GOP senators split over antitrust remedies for big tech Graham warns of 5G security threat from China MORE (R-Tenn.) and John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Bipartisan House bill calls for strategy to protect 5G networks from foreign threats Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' MORE (R-Texas). This legislation would require “long-term scenario and strategic planning” between the government and private sector to assess the risk vulnerability of the nation’s information and communications technology marketplace, and to develop strategies to mitigate these risks.

“It is important that as we talk about this issue, we talk about having a national strategy, not government control of a 5G network,” Blackburn said about 5G threats during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

The topic of the need to secure 5G networks against foreign threats appeared to be a bipartisan topic on the committee on Tuesday, with support for action from most committee members.

“If our allies decide to trust Huawei, they are deciding to trust the Chinese government with their big data,” Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order to protect US networks from Chinese tech | Huawei downplays order | Trump declines to join effort against online extremism | Facebook restricts livestreaming | FCC proposes new tool against robocalls MORE (R-Neb.) said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said that there "seems to be pretty strong bipartisan alarm about the threat posed by Huawei, which is really the threat posed by China, and what still mystifies me is why our partners and allies around the world seem less alarmed than we are. We have been figuratively pounding the table here.”

“It’s not about overseeing Huawei, it’s about overseeing China,” Graham said. “I haven’t seen bipartisanship like this in a long time.”