An exclusive report from CNN has revealed the findings of FBI's investigations into the activities of the Chinese government and telecom giant Huawei.
According to the report, the FBI discovered a worrying trend of Huawei offering to install equipment on cell towers near military installations in rural USA even if it was unprofitable.
John Lenkart, a former senior FBI agent who focused on counterintelligence issues related to China, said they looked for details "that made no sense from a return-on investment perspective." And that when they did so, they uncovered a lot of counterintelligence concerns.
The FBI, who examined Huawei's equipment personally, determined that the equipment, despite being certified by the FCC, could recognise and disrupt highly restricted Defense Department communications – even those used by the US Strategic Command that oversees the country's nuclear weapons.
That said, it's unclear at this point whether any data was actually intercepted and sent back to Beijing from these cell towers. Sources told CNN that this was difficult to prove from a technical standpoint.
However, multiple sources familiar with these investigations told CNN that "there's no question" that Huawei's equipment have the capability to intercept highly restricted military communications, which could give the Chinese government a window into the US' nuclear arsenal.
In response, Huawei told CNN that ""All of our products imported to the US have been tested and certified by the FCC before being deployed there. Our equipment only operates on the spectrum allocated by the FCC for commercial use. This means it cannot access any spectrum allocated to the DOD."
It further adds, "For more than 30 years, Huawei has maintained a proven track record in cyber security and we have never been involved in any malicious cyber security incidents."
CNN's report gives some insights into the thinking behind the controversial "rip and replace" program that pushes for the removal of Chinese tech across the country.
The program, which is underway, is moving along slowly partly due to a lack of funding. Costs have skyrocketed tremendously. Back in September 2020, the entire program was estimated to cost US$1.8 billion (S$2.5 billion). Now, that plan is estimated to cost a whopping US$5.6 billion.