Lawmakers warn decision threatens intel sharing
Lawmakers on Tuesday blasted the British government’s decision to allow controversial Chinese telecom firm Huawei to help build its 5G networks, warning that the decision could threaten the long-standing intelligence sharing agreement between the United States and United Kingdom.
“Here’s the sad truth: our special relationship is less special now that the U.K. has embraced the surveillance state commies at Huawei,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.
“The Chinese Communist Party has infected Five Eyes with Huawei,” he added, referring to the intelligence sharing agreement which includes the U.S. and U.K., “right at a time when the U.S. and U.K. must be unified in order to meet the global security challenges of China’s resurgence.”
The U.K. decision was a sharp blow to the Trump administration, which had pressured the country to cut Huawei out entirely from 5G networks and raised red flags about continued intelligence sharing between the two countries.
American officials have cited concerns that Huawei, which is one of the largest telecom equipment providers in the world, could serve as a source of intelligence for the Chinese government, and they have urged countries around the world to keep the company out of 5G networks.
A senior administration official at the White House told The Hill that the U.S. was “disappointed” by the decision of the British government.
“There is no safe option for untrusted vendors to control any part of a 5G network,” the official said. “We look forward to working with the UK on a way forward that results in the exclusion of untrusted vendor components from 5G networks. We continue to urge all countries to carefully assess the long-term national security and economic impacts of allowing untrusted vendors access to important 5G network infrastructure.”
But on Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers were more vocal in their criticism of the U.K.’s decision, and its repercussions for intelligence sharing and the “special relationship.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who with Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), sent a letter to UK NSC members on Monday begging them to vote to ban Huawei entirely–called for the U.S. Director of National Intelligence to conduct a review of U.S.-U.K. intelligence sharing.
Ahead of the U.K.’s decision, Republican Reps. Jim Banks (Ind.) and Liz Cheney (Wyo.) introduced legislation that would ban the U.S. from sharing intelligence with any countries that allow the use of Huawei equipment in networks.
Both Banks and Cheney reacted strongly against Tuesday’s decision, with Banks saying in a statement that the U.K. “has made a colossal mistake” and potentially “damaged our ‘special relationship.’”
“By allowing Huawei into their 5G network, @BorisJohnson has chosen the surveillance state over the special relationship,” Cheney tweeted.