A source inside the Department of Justice has revealed the agency has been investigating a spying scheme hatched by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) using tech companies like Huawei to undercut U.S. national security.
The source told CNN that the plot “gets into some of the most sensitive things we do.” The report indicates the stunning level of complacency that permitted the vulnerabilities to be exploited.
The CNN report indicates that the CCP has used Wendi Deng Murdoch, a Chinese-American business executive, along with tech firms to place projects adjacent to or very near U.S. military installations that potentially could “impact our ability for essentially command and control with the nuclear triad.” The source said that makes this “a very bad day.”
The investigation reportedly dates back to 2017 when the Chinese government was preparing to invest $100 million into a Chinese garden that would become part of the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.
The investment was touted as a cultural exchange on the level of Japan’s donation of cherry trees to the U.S. capital city in 1912. The Chinese garden project was slated to include temple buildings, pavilions, and a 70-foot-tall pagoda.
The pagoda was planned for one of the highest points in Washington, which would have provided an ideal location for signals intercepts and a line-of-sight view of military and law enforcement activities and deployments around the Capitol.
The proposed site was only two miles away from the National Mall, site of the Capitol Building, the White House, and the nearby Naval Yard and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling.
American intelligence officials finally sent up alarms when Chinese officials sought to import construction materials for the pagoda in diplomatic pouches, shielding them from inspection by U.S. Customs officials. The Chinese Garden has since reportedly been canceled.
Since then, intelligence concerns have been raised regarding the land-based leg of the U.S. nuclear weapons triad and the Strategic Air Command in the midwest.
The DOJ source has now revealed that Chinese manufacturers have had hardware present on cell towers near highly sensitive installations for years. More recently, it has become known that Chinese infrastructure hardware is often equipped with spying capabilities.
CNN said that it confirmed the vulnerabilities through more than a dozen independent sources, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The report added that vast areas of rural telecommunications networks in the Colorado and Montana region now include streaming traffic and weather cameras on towers near military installations, opening the possibility that the areas can be easily closely monitored remotely.
When the FCC learned of the FBI investigation in 2019, President Trump signed an executive order that required all telecommunications firms that receive federal subsidies must “rip and replace” the suspect Chinese hardware. The order also banned future federal government-funded transactions with Huawei. That Chinese company was identified as a specific national security threat.
However, much of the suspect hardware is still in place today due to a shortfall in Congressional appropriations of around $1.9 billion.