Tech

Pentagon Orders Military To Halt Sale Of Chinese Phones Citing Security Threats

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

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Kyle Perisic Contributor

The U.S. Department of Defense has ordered retail stores on military bases to stop the sale of products made by Chinese telecom companies Huawei and ZTE for security reasons, including possibly the ability to track the location of military personnel.

“Huawei and ZTE devices may pose an unacceptable risk to Department’s personnel, information and mission,” Army Maj. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. “In light of this information, it was not prudent for the Department’s exchanges to continue selling them to [Defense Department] personnel.”

Military personnel “should be mindful of the security risks posed by the use” of Huawei and ZTE phones if they choose to buy them elsewhere for their personal use, which the military cannot control, Eastburn said.

He did not say what the Pentagon’s specific security concerns are, but The Wall Street Journal reported the Chinese government might be able to track the location of military personnel. (RELATED: Amazon’s Deal With China Is A National Security DISASTER) 

Intelligence leaders from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency said to a Senate panel in February that Americans shouldn’t use ZTE or Huawei products because, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray, their products could provide the “capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”

Huawei is the third-largest smartphone maker in the world and ZTE is the fourth-largest seller of phones in the U.S.

It’s not clear how many phones are affected by the ban and both companies are much more popular overseas, including in countries where there are U.S. military bases.

A Huawei spokesman said the company has never been ordered by the government to spy on or deliberately destroy another country and operates independently of the Chinese government, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Pentagon is also investigating policies that allow deployed personnel to wear GPS-linked wearable activity-monitoring devices like Fitbits and Apple Watches that might inadvertently reveal where troops are specifically stationed.

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