Federal agencies say American citizens shouldn’t use Huawei or ZTE phones

Top officials from the CIA, NSA, FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency testified that some Chinese smartphone makers posed a security threat t

FBI Seal

(CNN) – U.S. intelligence agencies issued a stern warning to Americans: Do not buy smartphones made by Chinese tech companies Huawei or ZTE.

Top officials from the CIA, NSA, FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee that the Chinese smartphone makers posed a security threat to American customers.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas asked the group to raise their hands if they would recommend private American citizens use products or services made by Apple competitor Huawei or smartphone maker ZTE. None of them did.

FBI Director Chris Wray explained why it is an issue for companies and local governments to use Huawei or ZTE products and services.

There is a risk of letting any company “beholden to foreign governments” inside the country’s telecommunications infrastructure, he said. Huawei is a global leader in networking equipment, and the government has previously blocked it from selling technology to some federal agencies.

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

Huawei has not made strides in the U.S. market in large part because of government concerns that the Chinese government can use its smartphones and other products for intelligence gathering.

Huawei did not respond to a request for comment.

“As a publicly traded company, we are committed to adhering to all applicable laws and regulations of the United States, work with carriers to pass strict testing protocols, and adhere to the highest business standards,” a representative for ZTE said in an emailed statement. “Our mobile phones and other devices incorporate US-made chipsets, US-made operating systems and other components.”

Cotton introduced a bill last week that would prohibit the government from contracting with companies that use Huawei or ZTE products.

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