Senators suggest more intel about Huawei could be revealed to affected companies

The senators said they believe security concerns about Huawei are real and urgent. (Fierce Wireless)

Five Republican senators told Microsoft President Brad Smith that they believe the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the intelligence community could share more of their intelligence about Huawei “in an appropriate fashion” with affected businesses.

The letter (PDF) was prompted by Smith’s statements last month to Bloomberg Businessweek where he encouraged the U.S. government to disclose additional intelligence about Huawei’s alleged espionage, so that business leaders “can decide for themselves” whether to continue dealing with the Chinese vendor.

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The senators—Marco Rubio of Florida, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Rick Scott of Florida, Mike Braun of Indiana and Josh Hawley of Missouri—said they understand many American companies have conducted business in good faith with Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies, but they believe a review of publicly available evidence indicates that the security concerns about Huawei are real and urgent.

They went on to list several activities that raised flags, including a U.S. government indictment earlier this year for stealing advanced robotics technology from T-Mobile in the U.S. Huawei allegedly offered rewards to employees who stole trade secrets from competitors.

“This evidence, in conjunction with testimony from U.S. government officials and our allies, Britain, Japan, and Australia, makes a compelling case that Huawei serves as an intelligence-gathering apparatus for the Chinese state,” the senators wrote. “As Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has said, ‘Huawei is the means by which China would get into our networks and our systems, and either attempt to extract information or to corrupt it, or to determine what we’re trying to do.'”

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The letter comes as some senior U.S. government officials were quoted in a Financial Times article suggesting that the U.S. is looking at ways to provide financial rewards to Huawei's European rivals. The article said officials have suggested issuing credit to companies such as Nokia and Ericsson to enable them to match the generous financing terms that Huawei offers to its customers.

The article also says that others in Washington are pushing instead to foster a homegrown rival to Huawei and have asked companies such as Oracle and Cisco whether they would consider entering the radio transmission market, but both companies rebuffed such suggestions, warning it would be too expensive and time-consuming to do so. 

All of this comes as the U.S. industry—driven by carriers like AT&T—is coming up with ways to open up the infrastructure ecosystem so that products are built on open source platforms and interoperate with one another so that they can avoid vendor “lock in.”