House Homeland Votes Against Demanding ZTE Threat Report

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Homeland Security is already sharing information about threats posed by the Chinese telecom, Chairman Michael McCaul argued.

House Homeland Security Democrats failed Wednesday in an effort to direct the Homeland Security Department to release information it has about digital threats caused by the Chinese telecom ZTE.

The resolution from Homeland ranking member Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., comes as President Donald Trump is considering reversing a ban on U.S. companies supplying materials to ZTE despite concerns the company might be used as a Chinese spying platform.

ZTE and the Chinese telecom Huawei are also barred from certain government contracts in this year’s House and Senate versions of an annual defense policy bill, the National Defense Authorization Act.

Thompson’s resolution would have directed the department to share documents related to ZTE products used by Homeland Security and Homeland Security assessments of ZTE threats and vulnerabilities.

“Why is the president interested in helping ZTE, a company whose products our country and our allies believe could pose serious national security risks?” Thompson asked while introducing the resolution during a Wednesday markup.

The resolution was reported unfavorably by a vote of 16 to 11.

Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said he shares Thompson’s concerns about ZTE but called the resolution “outdated and redundant” because of other committee efforts and the National Defense Authorization Act bans.

Homeland Security officials have told McCaul the department does not have any existing contracts with ZTE or Huawei, he said.

The department will also give members a classified briefing on threats posed by Huawei and ZTE June 13 along with officials from the Defense Department and FBI, McCaul said.

McCaul is readying a bill that will allow Homeland Security to deny and cancel procurements on national security grounds, he said.

Also Wednesday, the committee forward a bill that would codify into law cybersecurity assistance that Homeland Security currently provides to critical infrastructure organizations such as energy plants.