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Huawei fights back in court against FCC national security threat label

Huawei fights back in court against FCC national security threat label

Chinese telecommunications group Huawei is fighting back in court against the decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year to label the company a national security threat.

Legal representation for Huawei argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Wednesday that the company could not be labeled a national security threat because the FCC had not developed a set standard for defining companies as threats, according to Courthouse News Service.

“What’s the standard for being a national security threat?” Michael Carvin, an attorney for law firm Jones Day arguing on behalf of Huawei’s U.S. subsidiary, said during arguments, according to Courthouse News Service. “It’s a phrase, not a standard.”

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Carvin argued that there were no “neutral standards” for the FCC to make the designation, and accused FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed by President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE, of pressuring other members of the FCC into voting to label Huawei a threat. 

A lawyer for the FCC pushed back against these claims, arguing that the case should be thrown out due to Huawei not having been hurt by the designation and describing Huawei’s claims as “meritless,” according to Courthouse News Service.

Both the FCC and Huawei declined to comment on the case to The Hill. 

The case comes months after the five-member FCC panel voted unanimously last year to designate both Huawei and Chinese telecom group ZTE as national security threats and to ban U.S. companies from using the FCC’s $8.5 billion Universal Service Fund to purchase equipment from either group. The FCC formalized that decision in June. 

“Both companies have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus, and both companies are broadly subject to Chinese law obligating them to cooperate with the country’s intelligence services,” Pai said of both Huawei and ZTE in a June statement. “We cannot and will not allow the Chinese Communist Party to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise our critical communications infrastructure.”

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Huawei subsequently sued the FCC for the designation in December. The case is now pending, with timing for a final decision unclear. 

The Trump administration has taken strong steps to push back against Huawei as part its ongoing U.S.-China trade conflict, with the Commerce Department adding the company to its “entity list,” effectively blacklisting Huawei and preventing U.S. companies from doing business with the telcom group. 

President Trump signed legislation into law in March that bans U.S. companies from using federal funds to buy Huawei equipment. The legislation also provided $1 billion to help small rural telecom groups rip out Huawei equipment and replace it.

The U.S. is not the only country to take action against Huawei due to potential security threats. The Swedish government announced last month that Huawei equipment could not be used to build new 5G networks, also citing national security concerns. 

The United Kingdom announced in July that all mobile network operators would be required to stop buying Huawei equipment by the end of the year, and would also be required to rip out and replace all existing Huawei equipment by 2027. 

The French government in July also took action against Huawei, declining to fully ban the use of Huawei equipment, but strongly encouraging telecom companies to avoid the use of the group’s equipment. 

Huawei has consistently pushed back allegations that it poses a threat, with a spokesperson telling The Hill following the decision in Sweden that “there are no factual grounds to support allegations of Huawei posing any security threat. The exclusion of Huawei is simply based on groundless presumption and is unfair and unacceptable.”