Intelligence agency officials are warning Americans against buying phones from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE due to concerns they could be used to spy on people.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday that there is a risk in letting companies with strong ties to the Chinese government operate within the U.S. telecommunication infrastructure, CNN reported.
None of the top officials from the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on global terror threats this week said they would recommend the Chinese-made phones to Americans.
“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” Wray said.
"It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information," Wray said. "And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage."
In 2012, the House Intelligence Committee released a report saying the two companies failed to provide information about reported connections with the Chinese government.
Republicans have introduced legislation in the Senate and the House to bar the government from using products developed by the firms.
Huawei has accused the U.S. of intentionally biasing the American market against their products even though they are trusted by the governments of 170 countries.
Talks between AT&T and Huawei to sell the Chinese company’s smartphones in the country fell through earlier this year, reportedly due to lawmaker intervention.
ZTE USA pushed back on the claims by intelligence officials, referring to the company as a "trusted partner to our US suppliers, US customers and the people who use" their products.
"ZTE is proud of the innovation and security of our products in the US market," the company said in a statement to The Hill. "As a publicly traded company, we are committed to adhering to all applicable laws and regulations of the United States, work with carriers to pass strict testing protocols, and adhere to the highest business standards."
Updated 6:06 p.m.