Executive Order Gives Power to Block Foreign Tech Posing ‘Undue Risk of Catastrophic Effects’ to U.S.

President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday giving the government authority to block telecommunications or information technology deals that are deemed an “unacceptable risk” to national security.

In early 2018, U.S. intelligence chiefs unanimously told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Americans shouldn’t buy smartphones or use other products and services from Chinese tech giant Huawei because of “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,” FBI Director Chris Wray said.

“It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information,” Wray added. “And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”

Under the new order, “Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain,” the Commerce Department has 150 days to come up with regulations to govern transactions that could compromise national security. It doesn’t specifically mention Huawei, but Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang vowed today that “China will take further necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises.”

Huawei said in a statement that it is “ready and willing to engage with the U.S. government and come up with effective measures to ensure product security.”

The order states that the Commerce Department, in consultation with Homeland Security, Treasury, State, Defense, the Attorney General, the United States Trade Representative, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the administrator of General Services, and the Federal Communications Commission, should prohibit transactions that involve “information and communications technology or services designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied, by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of a foreign adversary” and pose “an undue risk of sabotage to or subversion of the design, integrity, manufacturing, production, distribution, installation, operation, or maintenance of information and communications technology or services in the United States,” “an undue risk of catastrophic effects on the security or resiliency of United States critical infrastructure or the digital economy of the United States,” or “an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the security and safety of United States persons.”

Press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump “made it clear that this administration will do what it takes to keep America safe and prosperous, and to protect America from foreign adversaries who are actively and increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology infrastructure and services in the United States.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has long been pressing for tougher federal action against Huawei, praised the executive order and Commerce’s denial of export privileges against the company.

“Huawei is a state-directed instrument of national power used by the Chinese government and Communist Party to destroy their international competitors, undermine U.S. companies, spy on foreign countries, and steal intellectual property and trade secrets,” Rubio said.

“Earlier this year, Congress acted well within our constitutional authority to block Huawei from our telecommunications equipment market due to concerns with the company’s links to China’s intelligence services,” the senator added. “As the administration continues to seek a fair and enforceable trade deal with China, I urge them to stand strong on Huawei and hold the Chinese government and its state-owned and state-directed enterprises accountable for their hostile actions threatening U.S. economic and national security.”

PERSPECTIVE: Economic Strength, Cybersecurity Interplay in U.S.-China Trade Policy

Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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