Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Marco Rubio (R-FL), member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, expressed deep concern that the Trump Administration may concede on important national security matters related to the development of fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technology (5G) in order to achieve a favorable outcome on trade negotiations. In a letter to the U.S. Department of State and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Senators underscored the threats posed by Chinese telecommunications equipment to network security, data privacy, and economic security across the globe, and emphasized the need to keep trade negotiations separate from any changes in policy concerning national security threats posed by Huawei.

“Allowing the use of Huawei equipment in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure is harmful to our national security,” the Senators wrote. “In no way should Huawei be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations. Instead, the U.S. should redouble our efforts to present our allies with compelling data on why the long-term network security and maintenance costs on Chinese telecommunications equipment offset any short-term cost savings.”

Sens. Warner and Rubio reiterated their support for existing U.S. efforts to convey the long-term security risks posed by Chinese telecommunications firms to allies and partners abroad. However, the Senators expressed concern that this message is being undermined by President Trump, whose Administration reversed a seven-year ban on ZTE last year in defiance of a Commerce Department recommendation, and who in late March indicated that Huawei could be included in a future trade deal. In the letter, the Senators also emphasized that any modifications of Huawei’s Temporary General License must be pursued in a risk-based way, separate from trade negotiations, and without undermining national security.  

As a former telecommunications executive who introduced bipartisan legislation on 5G, Sen. Warner continues to be a leading voice on the national security risks posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. In December, Sens. Warner and Rubio urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in Canada’s fifth-generation network. In January, Sens. Warner and Rubio teamed up to introduce legislation to combat tech-specific, national security threats posed by foreign actors like China, and establish a whole-of-government strategy to protect the U.S. from technology theft. Additionally, Sen. Warner led legislation with Sen. Wicker to provide $700 million for rural telecommunications providers in order to offset the costs of removing equipment from vendors that pose a security threat, such as Huawei.

The full text of the letter appears below. A copy of the letter is available here.

June 13, 2019
 
Secretary Michael Pompeo
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
 
Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
600 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20006
 

Dear Secretary Pompeo and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer:

We are writing to express our deep concern that the Administration may concede on important national security matters related to Huawei Technologies, Inc. and the adoption of fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technology (5G) in order to achieve a favorable outcome in the Administration’s trade negotiations.

As Members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), we have strongly supported efforts by our diplomats, military, and intelligence personnel to persuade allies and partners around the world that Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications firms present a long-term legitimate security threat to their network security, data privacy, and economic security.  As you know, Chinese telecommunications equipment poses a threat that intelligence and military officials assess will only become more acute as energy infrastructure, transportation networks and other critical functions move to 5G networks and as millions more Internet of things (IoT) devices are connected.

Despite the best efforts of our government to convince other countries to keep Huawei components out of their 5G infrastructure, our message is being undermined by concerns that we are not sincere.  For example, Europeans have publicly expressed fears that the Administration will soften its position on Huawei in the United States to gain leverage in trade talks, as the Administration did in June 2018 when the seven-year ban on ZTE was reversed and a new settlement agreement reached at the urging of President Xi over the recommendation of Commerce Department leadership.  The President himself reinforced these fears in late May, stating:

“Huawei is something that’s very dangerous.  You look at what they’ve done from a security standpoint, from a military standpoint.  It’s very dangerous.  So it’s possible that Huawei even would be included in some kind of a trade deal.  If we made a deal, I could imagine Huawei being possibly included in some form of or some part of a trade deal.”

Allowing the use of Huawei equipment in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure is harmful to our national security.  In no way should Huawei be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations. Instead, the U.S. should redouble our efforts to present our allies with compelling data on why the long-term network security and maintenance costs on Chinese telecommunications equipment offset any short-term cost savings. Any modifications to Huawei’s Temporary General License must be pursued in a risk-based way, separate from any trade negotiations, and consistent with national security considerations. Successfully identifying and mitigating these security risks requires sustained coordination and alignment with our international partners, particularly the Europeans who represent key parts of the 5G supply chain, and India, which is poised to be the single-largest telecommunications market. Conflating national security concerns with levers in trade negotiations undermines this effort, and endangers American security.

We appreciate your attention to this important matter of national security and request that you keep us apprised of your efforts.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a former telecommunications executive and entrepreneur, along with Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), introduced legislation to establish U.S. policy for the commercial deployment and security of Fifth Generation (5G) networks. The United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019 will prioritize national security in the development of 5G by ensuring that American networks do not include equipment or services provided by Huawei, ZTE, or their affiliates. This legislation will also create a Supply Chain Security Trust Fund grant program to help rural and regional U.S. communications providers remove from their networks Chinese equipment determined to threaten national security.

“For a number of years, the federal government failed to effectively communicate the economic and national security risks of Huawei and ZTE communications equipment – and even adopted broadband grant policies that incentivized rural carriers to use this equipment because it was the cheapest around. While we’ve made enormous progress in educating the private sector of the dangers these vendors pose, we haven’t put in place policies to help resource-strapped rural carriers address and eliminate those risks. This bill ensures that on a going-forward basis we don’t make the same mistakes in allowing companies subject to extra-judicial directions of a foreign adversary to infiltrate our nation’s communications networks. And it provides significant resources to ensure that rural and regional providers can prioritize investments that eliminate this equipment from their existing networks where it poses a security threat,” said Sen. Warner. “Lastly, it builds on efforts my colleagues and I have already undertaken to engage with and educate the private sector about security risks and vulnerabilities posed to communications networks from certain foreign suppliers. We also believe this type of effort will be an important signal to international partners that we are putting resources behind this issue, and encouraging them to do the same.”

“5G networks need to be robust and secure, and not rely on equipment or services that pose a national security risk,” said Sen. Wicker. “This legislation would ensure continued American leadership in advanced wireless technology deployment. It offers relief to those providers that need to replace foreign equipment within their networks while augmenting the availability of secure 5G networks for all Americans.”

“Future U.S. security and economic prosperity will depend on 5G technology. With so much at stake, our communications infrastructure must be protected from threats posed by foreign governments and companies like Huawei,” said Sen. Cotton. “Our bill will support 5G’s deployment in the United States while defending that technology from exploitation.”  

“5G wireless will revolutionize global telecommunications and connect people, information, and technology like never before. While 5G could yield enormous benefits, it also could pose significant risks if not implemented properly,” said Sen. Markey. “We have a responsibility to ensure that this next generation of telecommunications infrastructure will safely and securely connect Americans to each other and to the rest of the world.”

“We urgently need a comprehensive strategy when it comes to the very real threat that foreign actors, particularly China, pose to our communications networks,” said Sen. Sullivan. “It is clear that this problem is only going to grow with the development of next generation communications technologies without aggressive intervention. I’m pleased to partner with Chairman Wicker on this critical issue at the intersection of national security and commerce.”

Among other measures, The United States 5G Leadership Act would:

  • Establish U.S. policy to promote the deployment of secure commercial 5G networks and the development of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector in the U.S.
  • Establish U.S. policy to identify additional spectrum for 5G, with an emphasis on promoting harmonization with global allocations;
  • Establish U.S. policy that American 5G networks should not include equipment or services provided by Huawei, ZTE, or their affiliates.
  • Require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to finalize rulemaking that would prohibit the use of Universal Service Fund subsidies to buy equipment or services from providers who pose a national security risk.
  • Establish the Supply Chain Security Trust Fund grant program to help smaller U.S. communications providers remove Huawei equipment from their networks — and would make available up to $700 million from future spectrum auctions for this purpose.
  • Require a report on current Federal government measures to ensure the secure deployment and availability of 5G networks.
  • Establish an interagency program – led by the Department of Homeland Security – to share information regarding security, risks, and vulnerabilities with U.S. communications providers and trusted suppliers.
  • Prioritize funding to enhance U.S. representation at international 5G standards-setting bodies, such as the International Telecommunications Union.

“I thank Senators Wicker, Cotton, Warner, Sullivan, and Markey for introducing the United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019.  This bipartisan bill will help ensure that all carriers have the information and resources necessary to address security risks while advancing US leadership in 5G.  I appreciate the Senators’ leadership on this important issue and look forward to continued work with Congress to ensure access to secure wireless networks, particularly in rural America,” said Steven K. Berry, President & CEO, Competitive Carriers Association.

Sen. Warner has been a leading voice in the Senate about the national security risks posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. Last week, Sen. Warner spoke out in favor of the executive order banning U.S. telecommunications firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could threaten national security. He is also the lead sponsor of the Secure 5G and Beyond Acta bill to safeguard next-gen mobile telecommunications systems and infrastructure. Additionally, earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific, national security threats posed by foreign actors like China. As Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Warner has been leading a bipartisan effort to educate the private sector on the economic and security risks posed by Chinese companies like Huawei.

For the full text of this legislation, click here

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Senate overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine to crack down on illegal robocall scams. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act gives regulators more time to find scammers, increases civil forfeiture penalties for those who are caught, requires service providers to adopt call authentication and blocking, and brings relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to address impediments to criminal prosecution of robocallers who intentionally break laws.

“Americans are sick and tired of receiving fraudulent robocalls,” said the Senators. “We are proud the Senate passed this bill to help protect consumers from scams and ensure those behind these illegal robocalls are held accountable.”

One report estimated the number of spam calls will grow from nearly 30 percent of all phone calls last year to 45 percent of all calls this year. The TRACED Act gives the FCC more flexibility to enforce rules in the short term, while setting in motion consultations to increase prosecutions of violations, which often require international cooperation. 

The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded the inclusion of provisions that would provide much-needed oversight of privatized military housing for servicemembers in this year’s Senate National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The annual defense legislation lays out the nation’s overall policy priorities that are critical to our national security, and was just approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, sending the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

 Following a Reuters investigation that exposed health, safety, and environmental hazards in privatized military housing throughout the United States, Sen. Warner has been advocating on behalf of servicemembers and their families to address concerns with military housing, including health hazards. The Senate legislation includes provisions from Sen. Warner’s bill that would increase accountability and oversight over privatized housing companies, empower servicemembers and their families when tackling housing disputes with private companies, and instate new quality assurance and quality control measures. The bill also establishes a “Tenant Bill of Rights” to ensure that servicemembers and their families have the protections they need and to ensure this does not happen again. 

“For far too long, military families have been subjected to sub-par living conditions, sometimes rivaling what you might see in a bad horror movie. That’s why I’m glad that my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee stepped up to add much-needed oversight on the private companies whose sole job is to provide safe housing for military families,” said Sen. Warner. “Additionally, I’m pleased to report that this defense bill includes additional steps to modernize our security clearance process to enhance our ability to hire and retain the national security talent we need to keep our country secure. Right now, we have 480,000 individuals waiting on a background check. While this drop is encouraging, there is still more work to be done to truly transform the clearance process.” 

Sen. Warner has met with military families in Norfolk, Fort Lee, and Fort Belvoir who’ve shared their stories of hazardous living conditions in their homes and their frustrations with the lack of oversight and response from the military services and their respective housing companies. To keep the pressure on addressing the deplorable housing conditions, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company, and has urged the Department of Defense to develop long-term solutions for fixing the privatized housing program overall through reopening and renegotiating the agreements with the private companies.

As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner has continued to push for security clearance modernization and reform. In February, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act of 2019, which was included in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018-2020 and unanimously reported out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week. The Committee’s annual Intelligence Authorization Act also includes provisions championed by Sen. Warner that requires published guidelines so that the security clearance process cannot be abused for political purposes.

The defense bill also prioritizes innovation and technology development in the area of 5G and artificial intelligence (AI), to compete with our adversaries like Russia and China. As a former technology and telecommunications executive, Sen. Warner has pushed the Administration to develop a strategy to maintain our advantages in technological innovation, as well as to lead on 5G and AI.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement after President Trump signed an executive order to ban American telecommunications firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could pose a threat to national security:

 “This is a needed step, and reflects the reality that Huawei and ZTE represent a threat to the security of U.S. and allied communications networks. Under current Chinese security laws, these and other companies based in China are required to provide assistance to the Chinese state. This executive order places a great deal of authority in the Department of Commerce, which must ensure that it is implemented in a fair and responsible fashion as to not harm or stifle legitimate business activities. It should also be noted that we have yet to see a compelling strategy from this Administration on 5G, including how the Administration intends to work cooperatively with our allies and like-minded nations to ensure that international standards set for 5G reflect Western values and standards for security and privacy. Nor do we have a stated plan for replacing this equipment from existing commercial networks – a potentially multi-billion dollar effort that, if done ineptly, could have a major impact on broadband access in rural areas. A coherent coordinated and global approach is critically needed as nations and telecom providers move to implement 5G.”

 As a former telecommunications executive and entrepreneur, Sen. Warner has been a leading voice in the Senate regarding the national security risks posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. He is the lead sponsor of the Secure 5G and Beyond Actlegislation to require the President to ensure the security of next-gen mobile telecommunications systems and infrastructure in the United States. He also introduced a bipartisan bill in January to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors like China. Additionally, Sen. Warner called on the Trump Administration last week to promote U.S. leadership and strengthen diplomatic efforts around the development of a secure 5G architecture that challenges Huawei’s monopoly over the next generation of telecoms networks.

 

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling attention to China’s efforts to be the leading country driving the development of standards and norms related to Artificial Intelligence (AI). The Senators urged the Secretary to strengthen the Trump Administration’s diplomatic efforts around emerging technologies to make certain the United States leads in setting international standards and norms for the AI field in ways that are congruent with our nation’s interests and values. 

“Without an engaged United States, and close coordination with our allies, we have limited ability to set global standards for AI development and use, with potentially disastrous consequences,” wrote the Senators. “China, as an authoritarian regime that uses AI tools to monitor its citizens and parse through vast troves a data, is a significant threat to the personal freedoms of individuals around the globe.” 

Menendez and Warner concluded the letter by asking Secretary Pompeo to articulate “the U.S. vision for global standards, norms, and mechanisms for the use of artificial intelligence,” and posing a series of questions about critical issues relating to AI.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below:

 

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

 

We write to urge you to ensure the United States takes a leading role in developing international standards and norms for new and emergent innovations shaping the next generation of information technologies, in particular Artificial Intelligence (AI). Other countries are already shaping this conversation in ways that may be detrimental to U.S. interests. For example, later this month China is convening and hosting a UNESCO Conference on AI, underscoring China’s continued efforts to shape the debate and set the standards surrounding the future of AI. Even our allies are leading in this space, with the EU releasing guidelines for ethical AI development.

 

Emerging technologies such as AI represent the cutting edge of innovation and will facilitate critical advances in a wide range of fields, including health care, education, information processing, logistics, and security. At the same time, these technologies will present enormous challenges, whether in job displacement, algorithmic discrimination, privacy, or cybersecurity (as adversaries exploit these tools, too). The United States has long played a formative role in developing AI technologies.  In recent years, however, China has made significant progress in developing AI, with a stated goal of superseding the United States in this field by 2030.  China’s efforts, according to a study conducted by the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, are ahead of schedule, with the Institute highlighting that China has “surpassed the United States in published papers on artificial intelligence” and is “poised to overtake” the United States in terms of cited papers on the subject over the next few years.  Disturbingly, some of America’s most prominent technology companies have opened major AI research centers in China, potentially giving China’s military and intelligence arms access to cutting-edge technology. China’s continued robust investment in the field of AI has the potential to provide a strategic rival a critical technological edge.

 

China’s organization of the UNESCO conference on AI is yet another indication of its efforts to fundamentally shape global standards governing the future of AI and to drive the debate in the international community around an approach that uses AI tools to infringe on the rights of individuals throughout the globe and aid authoritarian regimes in suppressing its citizens.  Technologies are shaped by the values and norms that undergird their development. While a generation of ICT technologies developed by the U.S. and its allies have been shaped by our shared values and norms of openness, pluralism, fair competition, rule of law, security, and free expression, China’s development of AI has been shaped by fundamentally different values and norms, in service of objectives such as surveillance, censorship, and social control.

 

As I know you appreciate, it is critically important that as China attempts to capture primacy in the field of AI the United States works with our partners and allies to assert a position of leadership within the international community on this issue.  Without an engaged United States, and close coordination with our allies, we have limited ability to set global standards for AI development and use, with potentially disastrous consequences.  China, as an authoritarian regime that uses AI tools to monitor its citizens and parse through vast troves a data, is a significant threat to the personal freedoms of individuals around the globe.

 

Due to the issues raised by China’s efforts to set international standards in the field of AI that are not congruent with our interests and values, I am concerned the United States is not doing enough to promote United States leadership in establishing the norms and global governance for AI and other emerging technologies.  Consequently, I ask that you please respond to the following questions regarding U.S. efforts in the AI field:

 

  • What is the U.S. vision for global standards, norms, and mechanisms for the use of artificial intelligence, grounded in our values, including democracy, personal liberties, and the protection of human rights?
  • What U.S. efforts are currently underway to promote this vision for the use of artificial intelligence?
  • What should U.S. expectations be for leading U.S.-based firms and researchers when it comes to work in China on projects that violate human rights? 
  • Does the current export control regime adequately prevent the export of AI technology and technical assistance to human rights violators? 
  • Should Congress consider an update to the Alien Tort Claims Act, allowing foreign citizens (such as Uyghurs) to seek remedies in U.S. courts for human rights violations directly aided by the actions of U.S. firms or researchers?
  • What standards for AI are you promoting in international fora?
  • What is the current diplomatic engagement strategy by the Department of State to promote and promulgate those standards, including through participation in appropriate international fora and meetings?
  • How is the United States working with allies and partners on the development of AI tools?

 

Moving forward, I hope to see the United States further strengthen its efforts in the AI field to ensure that we do not cede leadership on this issue to China.  AI is rapidly becoming one of the most strategically important domains of the next generation, serving as an enabling technology to a range of future innovations and across disparate fields; it is vital to the security of the United States and our allies that we play a primary role in shaping AI to serve in the best interests of liberty, prosperity, and the promotion of human rights.  I ask that you please respond to my questions by May 20th.  I look forward to your response.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and former telecommunications executive, along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), reintroduced bicameral legislation to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. The Honest Ads Act will safeguard the integrity of our democracy by requiring large online platforms to maintain public records of advertisers who purchase political ads. Companion legislation is being introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and 24 other bipartisan cosponsors.

“In 2016, Russia waged widespread disinformation campaigns that exploited social media in an effort to attack our democracy and divide the American public. As we continue to grow increasingly dependent on a handful of very large platforms, there is no doubt in my mind that foreign adversaries will continue to follow in Russia’s footsteps, exploiting the scale, amplification, and lack of transparency of these platforms in order to undermine the strength of the United States and advance their own anti-American agendas,” Sen. Warner said. “Right now, our country needs strong defenses that help ward off shady online attacks by demanding increased transparency, which is why I’m proud to introduce the Honest Ads Act. By requiring large digital platforms to meet the same disclosure standards as broadcast, cable, and satellite ads, this legislation can help prevent foreign actors from manipulating the American public and interfering in our free and fair elections through the use of inauthentic and divisive paid ads.”

“Foreign adversaries interfered in the 2016 election and are continuing to use information warfare to try to influence our government and divide Americans. We must act now to protect our democracy and prevent this kind of interference from ever happening again,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “The goal of the Honest Ads Act is simple: to ensure that voters know who is paying to influence our political system. The bill would put in place the same rules of the road for social media platforms that currently apply to political ads sold on TV, radio, and in print regarding disclaimers and disclosures so that Americans know who is behind the ads they see online. I also want to commend Senator Graham for taking up the mantle of bipartisanship from our late friend, Senator John McCain. Protecting our elections isn’t about politics—it’s about national security and the future of our democracy. I look forward to working with him and Senator Warner to get the Honest Ads Act passed.”

“Hardening our electoral infrastructure will require a comprehensive approach and it can’t be done with a single piece of legislation,” Sen. Graham said.  “I am cosponsoring this legislation because it’s clear we have to start somewhere. I am pleased to work with Senators Klobuchar and Warner to address the gaps that currently exist, particularly with regards to social media. Online platforms have made some progress but there is more to be done. Foreign interference in U.S. elections – whether Russia in the 2016 presidential election or another rogue actor in the future – poses a direct threat to our democracy. I intend to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to bolster our defenses and defend the integrity of our electoral system.”

Prior to the 2016 presidential election, Russia attempted to influence the American electorate by using fake accounts to buy and place political ads on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Without greater transparency and disclosure requirements, foreign adversaries and bad actors copying their playbook can continue exploiting the opacity of large social media platforms.

The Honest Ads Act would improve disclosure requirements for online political advertisements by:

  • Amending the definition of ‘electioneering communication’ in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, to include paid internet and digital advertisements.
  • Requiring digital platforms with at least 50,000,000 monthly visitors to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by a person or group who spends more than $500.00 total on ads published on their platform. This file would contain a digital copy of the advertisement, a description of the audience the advertisement targets, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, the rates charged, and the contact information of the purchaser.
  • Requiring online platforms to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.

The Honest Ads Act has the support of the Campaign Legal Center, the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the Brennan Center for Justice, Issue One, the Sunlight Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the German Marshall Fund's Digital Innovation Democracy Initiative, as well as Facebook, and Twitter.

The full text of the Honest Ads Act is available here

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WASHINGTON – A group of leading national security senators today sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging him to use an upcoming meeting of the G7 to forge a partnership of like-minded allies to compete with China in the development of fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology.  Signed by Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee, Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, the letter calls on the Trump Administration to lead an international effort to develop a secure 5G architecture challenging Huawei’s monopoly over the next generation of telecoms networks. 

“As we prepare for G-20 in Japan later this year, this meeting provides a critical opportunity for the United States to lead in the development of an international consortium of like-minded nations to develop a safe, secure, and economically viable alternative to the 5G architecture of firms, like Huawei,” wrote the Senators.  

The informal May 16th meeting of the G7 will focus on, “strategy of the G7 at the advent of the data economy and the need to build trust in digital technologies such as 5G.” In their letter, the senators suggest the U.S. must not just confront but also effectively compete with China by leading a public-private consortium of U.S., European, Japanese, Korean and others in an effort to create 5G architecture that meets mutual safety goals and does not pose a risk for national security.  

“Separate and alone, competition with China’s state-directed authoritarian model is challenging. Together, our economies represent the vast majority of the world’s most productive and innovative assets. It’s important that this next generation of technologies is shaped by the values of the U.S. and our allies around openness, pluralism, fair competition, and security,” added the senators. “We look forward to your thoughts and ideas for how you intend to take advantage of this meeting to forge an international effort not merely to confront China, but to effectively compete to develop 5G architecture.”

A copy of the letter can be found here and below:

 

 

The Honorable Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20520

 

 

Dear Mr. Secretary,

 

On May 16th, France will host an informal G-7 “Digital Ministers” meeting to explore strategy and partnership in the G-7 on “Tech for Humanity,” including “strategy of the G-7 at the advent of the data economy and the need to build trust in digital technologies such as 5G.”  

 

As we prepare for G-20 in Japan later this year, this meeting provides a critical opportunity for the United States to lead in the development of an international consortium of like-minded nations to develop a safe, secure, and economically viable alternative to the 5G architecture of firms, like Huawei, that are subject to extra-judicial demands of foreign governments. 

 

As you know, we share many of the concerns you have raised about Huawei’s efforts to dominate global 5G architecture, including the risk created for espionage, and the risks to privacy, security, our military, and our economic competitiveness.

 

But it is not enough to simply confront China. Working with our allies, we must also be able to compete – and win.  Fifth-generation wireless (5G) telecommunications technology stands poised to offer not just a simple step-change as with previous generations of cellular telecommunications technology, but to fundamentally re-write the rule book for economic and social organization, and even our politics, with a new generation of responsive and diversified services. 

 

Yet the fact of the matter is that as things stand today, neither the United States nor our allies and partners are making comparable capital investments or commitments to research and development that match what China and Huawei are devoting to this critical next generation data governance architecture.

 

However, if the United States were to take a leadership role in forging a new approach with our G-7 and other like-minded partners to bring together a public-private consortium of the best of US, European, Japanese, Korean and others efforts, we are convinced that in short order we can create 5G architecture that meets our common goals for trusted, safe and secure 5G. 

 

We are currently living through a digital transformation of society and of the economy that is as significant as any in human experience.  It is creating both opportunities and challenges, including, immediately, that of Huawei’s efforts to set the standards and architecture for 5G. This is mirrored more broadly in China’s wider efforts to unduly shape the development of key emerging technologies such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and life sciences.  

 

In the face of this challenge, the United States must stand at the forefront of the development of new global governance models, based on open and secure standards and principles -- and to do so with our allies and partners.  Separate and alone, competition with China’s state-directed authoritarian model is challenging.  Together, our economies represent the vast majority of the world’s most productive and innovative assets.  It’s important that this next generation of technologies is shaped by the values of the U.S. and our allies around openness, pluralism, fair competition, and security.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner, Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a member of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight jurisdiction over federal elections, joined his colleagues in sending a letter to the country’s three largest election system vendors with questions to help inform the best way to move forward to strengthen the security of our voting machines. In the U.S., the three largest election equipment vendors—Election Systems & Software, LLC; Dominion Voting Systems, Inc.; and Hart InterCivic, Inc.—provide the voting machines and software used by ninety-two percent of the eligible voting population. However, voting and cybersecurity experts have begun to call attention to the lack of competition in the election vendor marketplace and the need for scrutiny by regulators as these vendors continue to produce poor technology, like machines that lack paper ballots or audibility.  

The letter was signed by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Rules Committee, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. 

“The integrity of our elections remains under serious threat. Our nation’s intelligence agencies continue to raise the alarm that foreign adversaries are actively trying to undermine our system of democracy, and will target the 2020 elections as they did the 2016 and 2018 elections,” the senators wrote. “The integrity of our elections is directly tied to the machines we vote on – the products that you make. Despite shouldering such a massive responsibility, there has been a lack of meaningful innovation in the election vendor industry and our democracy is paying the price.”

 

The full text of the letter is below:

 

March 26, 2019

 

 

Mr. Phillip Braithwaite

President and Chief Executive Officer

Hart InterCivic, Inc.

 

Mr. Tom Burt

President and Chief Executive Officer

Election Systems & Software, LLC

 

Mr. John Poulos

President and Chief Executive Officer

Dominion Voting Systems

 

Dear Mr. Braithwaite, Mr. Burt, and Mr. Poulos: 

 

We write to request information about the security of the voting systems your companies manufacture and service.

 

The integrity of our elections remains under serious threat. Our nation’s intelligence agencies continue to raise the alarm that foreign adversaries are actively trying to undermine our system of democracy, and will target the 2020 elections as they did the 2016 and 2018 elections. Following the attack on our election systems in 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated election infrastructure as critical infrastructure in order to protect our democracy from future attacks and we have taken important steps to prioritize election security. We appreciate the work that your companies have done in helping to set up the Sector Coordinating Council (SCC) for the Election Infrastructure Subsector.

 

Despite the progress that has been made, election security experts and federal and state government officials continue to warn that more must be done to fortify our election systems. Of particular concern is the fact that many of the machines that Americans use to vote have not been meaningfully updated in nearly two decades. Although each of your companies has a combination of older legacy machines and newer systems, vulnerabilities in each present a problem for the security of our democracy and they must be addressed. 

 

On February 15, the Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) Commissioners unanimously voted to publish the proposed Voluntary Voting System Guidelines 2.0 (VVSG) Principles and Guidelines in the Federal Register for a 90 day public comment period. As you know, this begins the long-awaited process of updating the Principles and Guidelines that inform testing and certification associated with functionality, accessibility, accuracy, auditability, and security. The VVSG have not been comprehensively updated since 2005 – before the iPhone was invented – and unfortunately, experts predict that updated guidelines will not be completed in time to have an impact on the 2020 elections. While the timeline for completing VVSG 2.0 is frustrating, these guidelines are voluntary and they establish a baseline – not a ceiling – for voting equipment. Furthermore, VVSG 1.1 has been available for testing since 2015.

 

In other words, the fact that VVSG 2.0 remains a work in progress is not an excuse for the fact that our voting equipment has not kept pace both with technological innovation and mounting cyber threats. There is a consensus among cybersecurity experts regarding the fact that voter-verifiable paper ballots and the ability to conduct a reliable audit are basic necessities for a reliable voting system. Despite this, each of your companies continues to produce some machines without paper ballots. The fact that you continue to manufacture and sell outdated products is a sign that the marketplace for election equipment is broken. These issues combined with the technical vulnerabilities facing our election machines explain why the Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is reportedly working to develop an open source voting machine that would be secure and allow people to ensure their votes were tallied correctly.  

 

As the three largest election equipment vendors, your companies provide voting machines and software used by 92 percent of the eligible voting population in the U.S. This market concentration is one factor among many that could be contributing to the lack of innovation in election equipment. The integrity of our elections is directly tied to the machines we vote on – the products that you make. Despite shouldering such a massive responsibility, there has been a lack of meaningful innovation in the election vendor industry and our democracy is paying the price.

 

In order to help improve our understanding of your businesses and the integrity of our election systems, we respectfully request answers to the following questions by April 9, 2019:

 

  1. What specific steps are you taking to strengthen election security ahead of 2020? How can Congress and the federal government support these actions?

 

  1. What additional information is necessary regarding VVSG 2.0 in order for your companies to begin developing systems that comply with the new guidelines?

 

  1. Do you anticipate producing systems that will be tested for compliance with VVSG 1.1? Why or why not?

 

  1. What steps, if any, are you taking to enhance the security of your oldest legacy systems in the field, many of which have not been meaningfully updated (if at all) in over a decade?

 

  1. How do EAC certification requirements and the certification process affect your ability to create new election systems and to regularly update your election systems?

 

  1. Do you support federal efforts to require the use of hand-marked paper ballots for most voters in federal elections?  Why or why not?

 

  1. How are you working to ensure that your voting systems are compatible with the EAC’s ballot design guidelines (i.e. “Effective Designs for the Administration of Federal Elections”)? 

 

  1. Experts have raised significant concerns about the risks of ballot marking machines that store voter choice information in non-transparent forms that cannot be reviewed by voters (i.e. such as barcodes or QR codes), noting that errors in the printed vote record could potentially evade detection by voters. Do you currently sell any machines whose paper records do not permit voters to review the same information that the voting system uses for tabulation? If so, do you believe this practice is secure enough to be used in the 2020 election cycle?

 

  1. Do you make voting systems with Cast Vote Records (CVRs) that can be reliably connected to specific unique ballots, while also maintaining voter privacy? If not, why not? Does your company make voting systems that allow for a machine-readable data export of these CVRs in a format that is presentation-agnostic (such as JSON) and can be reliably parsed without substantial technical effort? If not, why not?

 

  1. Would you support federal legislation requiring expanded use of routine post-election audits, such as risk-limiting audits, in federal elections? Why or why not?

 

  1. What portion of your revenue is invested into research and development to produce better and more cost effective voting equipment?

 

  1. Congress is currently working on legislation to establish information sharing procedures for vendors regarding security threats. How does your company currently define a reportable cyber-incident and what protocols are in place to report incidents to government officials?
  2. What steps are you taking to improve supply chain security? To the extent your machines operate using custom, non-commodity hardware, what measures are you taking to ensure that the supply chains for your custom hardware components are monitored and secure?

 

  1. Do you employ a full-time cybersecurity expert whose role is fully dedicated to improving the security of your systems? If so, how long have they been on staff, and what title and authority do they have within your company? Do you conduct background checks on potential employees who would be involved in building and servicing election systems?

 

  1. Does your company operate, or plan to operate, a vulnerability disclosure program that authorizes good-faith security research and testing of your systems, and provides a clear reporting mechanism when vulnerabilities are discovered? If not, what makes it difficult for your company to do so, and how can Congress and the federal government help make it less difficult?

 

  1. How will DARPA’s work impact how your company develops and manufactures voting machines?

 

We look forward to your answers to these questions, and thank you for your efforts to work with us and with state election officials around the country to improve the security of our nation’s elections.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Bipartisan legislation to improve the cybersecurity of Internet-connected devices will be introduced today in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019 would require that devices purchased by the U.S. government meet certain minimum security requirements. 

The legislation is being introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Cory Gardner(R-CO), co-chairs of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, along with Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Steve Daines (R-MT), while Reps. Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Will Hurd (R-TX) are introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“While I’m excited about their life-changing potential, I’m also concerned that many IoT devices are being sold without appropriate safeguards and protections in place, with the device market prioritizing convenience and price over security,” said Sen. Warner, a former technology entrepreneur and executive and Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “This legislation will use the purchasing power of the federal government to establish some minimum security standards for IoT devices.” 

“The Internet of Things (IoT) landscape continues to expand, with most experts expecting tens of billions of devices to be operating on our networks within the next several years,” Sen. Gardner said. “As these devices continue to transform our society and add countless new entry points into our networks, we need to make sure they are secure, particularly when they are integrated into the federal government’s networks. Agencies like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which has a major campus in Boulder, are key players in helping establish guidelines for improved IoT security and our bill builds on those efforts. As co-chairs of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, Senator Warner and I remain committed to advancing our nation’s cybersecurity defenses.”

“As the government continues to purchase and use more and more internet-connected devices, we must ensure that these devices are secure. Everything from our national security to the personal information of American citizens could be vulnerable because of security holes in these devices,” said Rep. Kelly. “It’s estimated that by 2020 there will be 30 million internet-connected devices in use. As these devices positively revolutionize communication, we cannot allow them to become a backdoor to hackers or tools for cyberattacks.”

“Internet of Things devices will improve and enhance nearly every aspect of our society, economy and our day-to-day lives. This is groundbreaking work and IoT devices must be built with security in mind, not as an afterthought,” said Rep. Hurd, former computer science major, cybersecurity entrepreneur and Chair of the House Subcommittee on Information Technology. “This bipartisan legislation will make Internet of Things devices more secure and help prevent future attacks on critical technology infrastructure.”

“With everything from LED lights to thermostats connected to the internet, we need to act swiftly to step up security for ‘internet of things’ devices to prevent hackers from disrupting our economy and threatening public safety,” Sen. Hassan said. “By requiring the federal government to only purchase devices that meet certain cybersecurity standards, this bill will help protect federal agencies against hackers who are seeking to exploit internet of things devices in order to steal critical national security information and the private data of Granite Staters and Americans.”

“As the Internet of Things landscape grows – we must ensure that Montanan’s information is safe and the security of our critical infrastructure is protected,” said Sen. Daines. “This bill helps establish proper safeguards that balance the need to protect Montanan’s privacy and our national security with the growing tech economy and high-paying jobs it provides.”

The Internet of Things, the term used to describe the growing network of Internet-connected devices and sensors, is expected to include over 20 billion devices by 2020. While these devices and the data they collect and transmit present enormous benefits to consumers and industry, the relative insecurity of many devices presents enormous challenges. Sometimes shipped with factory-set, hardcoded passwords and oftentimes unable to be updated or patched, IoT devices can represent a weak point in a network’s security, leaving the rest of the network vulnerable to attack. IoT devices have been used by bad actors to launch devastating Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against websites, web-hosting servers, and internet infrastructure providers. 

At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee last year, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. General Robert Ashley, described exploitation of insecure IoT devices as one of the two “most important emerging cyber threats to our national security.” Last May, the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security published a report highlighting the IoT market forces that reward low-price and convenience at the expense of security. The signature recommendation of the May 2018 report was that the Federal government should “lead by example” by requiring the acquisition of more secure and resilient products and services, particularly IoT. The IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act will address both this market failure and the supply chain risk to the federal government stemming from insecure IoT devices by establishing light-touch, minimum security requirements for procurements of connected devices by the government. 

Specifically, the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019 would:

  • Require the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to issue recommendations addressing, at a minimum, secure development, identity management, patching, and configuration management for IoT devices.
  • Direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue guidelines for each agency that are consistent with the NIST recommendations, and charge OMB with reviewing these policies at least every five years.
  • Require any Internet-connected devices purchased by the federal government to comply with those recommendations.
  • Direct NIST to work with cybersecurity researchers and industry experts to publish guidance on coordinated vulnerability disclosure to ensure that vulnerabilities related to agency devices are addressed.
  • Require contractors and vendors providing IoT devices to the U.S. government to adopt coordinated vulnerability disclosure policies, so that if a vulnerability is uncovered, that information is disseminated.

“BSA applauds Senators Warner and Gardner for their leadership in securing the IoT, and calls on Congress to act swiftly to advance this important legislation,” said Tommy Ross, Senior Policy Director, BSA | The Software Alliance. “As IoT devices increasingly bring greater productivity and quality of life to consumers and businesses across sectors, we must be proactive in addressing the unique security considerations they bring.” 

“Internet-aware devices raise deep and novel security issues, with problems that could arise months or years after purchase, and spill over to people who aren't the purchasers. This bill leverages the government procurement market, rather than direct regulation, to encourage Internet-aware device makers to employ basic security measures in their products,” said Jonathan Zittrain, Co-Founder of Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

“Insecure and unsecured IoT devices are a risk we must address, and it will only happen if the government and the private sector both step up. I'm glad that Senators Warner and Gardner and Representatives Kelly and Hurd are continuing to push this issue,” said Jeff Greene, Vice President of Global Government Affairs & Policy at Symantec.

“Weak IoT security with little oversight puts the American public at risk, particularly as these devices become more and more common in our offices and in our homes. We need a coordinated approach. Empowering NIST to set standards for the development and management of these devices, as the IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019 proposes, will help secure the sensitive data held by the government and the private information shared within our homes,” said Alan Davidson, Vice President of Global Policy, Trust, and Security at Mozilla. 

“The proliferation of insecure Internet-connected devices presents an enormous security challenge. The risks are no longer solely about data; they affect flesh and steel. The market is not going to provide security on its own, because there is no incentive for buyers or sellers to act in anything but their self-interests. I applaud Senator Warner and his cosponsors for nudging the market in the right direction by establishing thorough, yet flexible, security requirements for connected devices purchased by the government,” said Bruce Schneier, Fellow and Lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. 

“Cloudflare applauds Senators Warner and Gardner, Representatives Kelly and Hurd, and their cosponsors for their continued efforts to address the risks posed by improperly secured IoT devices with the introduction of this latest bill. Using the government procurement process to encourage security research and innovation will make the U.S. Government a leader in this area, and should open up a robust discussion of these issues. Cloudflare looks forward to continuing to work with them as this bill moves forward,” said Doug Kramer, General Counsel, Cloudflare Inc. 

“IoT device insecurity is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Although much must be done to address this problem, the longest journey begins with a single step—and this bill is just such a step in moving the ball forward on IoT security for government procurements,” said Dr. Herb Lin, senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and Hank J. Holland Fellow in Cyber Policy and Security at the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford University.

"Billions of devices connect our world and in the coming years we will see billions more. Each device adds to an expanding and elastic attack surface that creates a massive gap in the ability to truly understand cyber risk at any given time. The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act, introduced by Representatives Robyn Kelly (D-IL) and Will Hurd (R-TX), tasks NIST with developing security guidelines to address critical vulnerabilities in the development of IoT devices that the federal government purchases. This legislation will help the government better manage its cyber risks, and provide a strong example for other organizations.  We also strongly support the call for NIST to develop a report that addresses Cyber Exposure considerations related to the increasing convergence of IT, IoT, and OT devices, networks and systems, as the modern enterprise must manage risk across all these environments," said James Hayes, Vice President of Global Government Affairs at Tenable.

“We applaud Senators Warner and Gardner and Representatives Kelly and Hurd for introducing the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019. The wireless industry is committed to ensuring the security of IoT devices and we look forward to working with the sponsors of the legislation on policies that will help protect consumers,” said Kelly Cole, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at CTIA.

Similar legislation was previously introduced in the 115th Congress.

Sen. Warner wrote to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in July 2016 raising concerns about the security of children’s data collected by Internet-connected “Smart Toys.” In May 2017, the Senator wrote a follow-up letter to Acting FTC Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen reiterating his concerns following comments by the Chairwoman that the risks of IoT devices are merely speculative. In response to the Senator’s concerns, the FTC issued updated guidance on protecting children’s personal data in connected toys. Immediately in wake of October’s devastating DDoS attack on the nation’s internet infrastructure by the Mirai botnet, Sen. Warner wrote the FCC, FTC, and NCCIC to raise concerns about the proliferation of botnets composed of insecure devices. Sen. Warner also wrote to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly in May 2017 asking what steps the Federal Government had taken to defend against WannaCry ransomware.

Sen. Warner, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and former technology executive, is the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus and a leader in Congress on security issues related to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Bill text is available here.

 

###

Washington – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, urged Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to issue a comprehensive and unclassified report on China’s participation in the international standard-setting bodies (ISSBs) for fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technologies (5G). This report would allow companies in the U.S. to fully assess any existing threats to fair competition and push back against them.

“In 2012, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s study on Huawei and ZTE drew attention globally to the security concerns associated with certain Chinese telecommunication and information technology companies,” wrote the Senators.“Similarly, we believe Chinese influence in our ISSBs is not fully appreciated, and the IC can play an essential role in filling the publicly available information gap—a necessary first step to countering this trend.”

American companies do not currently have access to crucial information regarding China’s alleged use of political influence in ISSBs or other anti-competitive practices, such as the state-directed coordination of large Chinese telecommunications firms. These practices can undermine fair competition, hinder the ability of us companies to sell and scale their technologies, and raise serious economic and security concerns for U.S. networks and future generations of wireless technologies.

Prompted by a series of anecdotal concerns raised to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) regarding China’s attempt to politically influence the ISSBs, the Senators urged Director Coats to issue a report detailing: 

1.             Overall trends in the ISSBs over the past decade and the implications of politicization of ISSBs;

2.             Specific examples of attempts by China and other foreign adversaries to exert pressure or political influence within the ISSBs or at major telecommunication conferences to secure standards that are favorable to Chinese companies and patent holders, or that might introduce deficiencies into 5G networks; and,

3.             How Chinese-led standards for 5G technologies will affect U.S. economic and security interests, including efforts by U.S. companies to sell and scale its technologies, the ability of the U.S. to position itself for future generations of wireless technology, and to protect against cyber intrusions and security vulnerabilities.

They concluded, “We hope that this report will be part of an ongoing effort to share more timely and relevant information with U.S. companies and our allies. The U.S. cannot tackle this issue alone and must work closely with our international partners—including the European Union, Great Britain, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada—on how we may collectively strengthen security standards, supply chain management, and market share of critical technologies. To the greatest extent possible, we urge the IC to declassify relevant information.”

Sens. Warner and Rubio are the lead sponsors of bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors like China. Sen. Warner, a former telecommunications executive and entrepreneur, has long expressed concerns about the risks to our national security posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. On October 12, 2018, Sen. Warner and Sen. Rubio sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging his country to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of Canada’s 5G development, introduction, and maintenance. Warner has also urged the Administration to work with our allies to combat these technology threats. Sens. Warner and Rubio are also the authors of bipartisan legislation to enforce full compliance by ZTE with all probationary conditions of a U.S. Commerce Department’s deal struck with the company last year that ended U.S. imposed sanctions.

 

Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.

 

Director Dan Coats

Director of National Intelligence

1500 Tysons McLean Drive

McLean, VA 22102

 

Dear Director Coats:

 

We are writing to request an unclassified report on the participation of China and other adversarial nations in the international standard-setting bodies (“ISSBs”)  for fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technologies (“5G”). Over the past year, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (“SSCI”) has heard anecdotal concerns that China is attempting to exert pressure or political influence in the ISSBs, which have historically functioned as technological meritocracies. Not only does political influence undermine fair competition, it also raises serious economic and security concerns for 5G and future generations of wireless technologies.

 

Currently, U.S. companies do not have access to critical information about the nature of this threat, and the degree of state-directed coordination amongst large Chinese telecommunication firms seeking to gain a critical edge in wireless technologies. Without adequate information, U.S. companies cannot effectively push back against this behavior, nor can the United States coordinate with our allies to deter anticompetitive practices in the ISSBs. 

 

Specifically, we request a detailed and unclassified report, to the extent possible, from the Intelligence Community (“IC”) on the following items:

 

1.                  Overall trends in the ISSBs over the past decade and the implications of politicization of ISSBs, if there is evidence of such trends;

 

2.                  Specific examples and case studies of attempts by China and other foreign adversaries to exert pressure or political influence within the ISSBs or at major telecommunication conferences to secure standards that are favorable to Chinese companies and patent holders, or that might introduce deficiencies into 5G networks; and,

 

3.                  Implications of Chinese-led standards for 5G technologies and how that will affect U.S. economic and security interests, including efforts by U.S. companies to sell and scale its technologies, the ability of the U.S. to position itself for future generations of wireless technology, and to protect against cyber intrusions and security vulnerabilities.

 

In 2012, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s study on Huawei and ZTE drew attention globally to the security concerns associated with certain Chinese telecommunication and information technology companies. Similarly, we believe Chinese influence in our ISSBs is not fully appreciated, and the IC can play an essential role in filling the publicly available information gap—a necessary first step to countering this trend. 

 

We hope that this report will be part of an ongoing effort to share more timely and relevant information with U.S. companies and our allies. The U.S. cannot tackle this issue alone and must work closely with our international partners—including the European Union, Great Britain, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada—on how we may collectively strengthen security standards, supply chain management, and market share of critical technologies. To the greatest extent possible, we urge the IC to declassify relevant information.

 

We appreciate your attention to this important matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

###

WASHINGTON— Today, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Committee member Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors like China and ensure U.S. technological supremacy by improving interagency coordination across the U.S. government. To do this, the bill creates an Office of Critical Technologies & Security at the White House responsible for coordinating across agencies and developing a long-term, whole-of-government strategy to protect against state-sponsored technology theft and risks to critical supply chains. 

“It is clear that China is determined to use every tool in its arsenal to surpass the United States technologically and dominate us economically. We need a whole-of-government technology strategy to protect U.S. competitiveness in emerging and dual-use technologies and address the Chinese threat by combating technology transfer from the United States, ” said Sen. Warner, a former technology and telecommunications executive. “We look forward to working with the Executive Branch and others to coordinate and respond to this threat.”

“China continues to conduct a coordinated assault on U.S. intellectual property, U.S. businesses, and our government networks and information with the full backing of the Chinese Communist Party,” said Sen. Rubio. “The United States needs a more coordinated approach to directly counter this critical threat and ensure we better protect U.S. technology. We must continue to do everything possible to prevent foreign theft of our technology, and interference in our networks and critical infrastructure. By establishing the Office of Critical Technologies and Security, this bill will help protect the United States by streamlining efforts across the government. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to enact this legislation and guard against these national security threats.”

China and other nations are currently attempting to achieve technological and economic superiority over the United States through the aggressive use of state-directed or -supported technology transfers. At the same time, the U.S. is also facing major challenges to the integrity of key supply chains as a result of reliance on foreign products that have been identified as national security risks. A national response to combat these threats and ensure our national security has, to date, been hampered by insufficient coordination at the federal level.

The Warner-Rubio bill would guarantee that there is a federal entity responsible for proactively coordinating interagency efforts and developing a national strategy to deal with these challenges to our national security and long-term technological competitiveness. Under the bill, the Office of Critical Technologies & Security would be directed to coordinate and consult with federal and state tech and telecom regulators, the private sector, nongovernmental experts and academic stakeholders, and key international partners and U.S. allies to ensure that every available tool is being utilized to safeguard the supply chain and protect emerging, foundational and dual-use technologies. The Office would also be responsible for raising awareness of these threats and improving the overall education of the American public and business leaders in key sectors about the threats to U.S. national security posed by the improper acquisition and transfer of critical technologies by foreign countries and reliance on foreign products – such as those manufactured by Chinese telecom companies ZTE and Huawei – that jeopardize the overall security of private sector supply chains. 

Sen. Warner, a former telecommunications executive and entrepreneur, has long expressed concerns about the risks to our national security posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. On October 12, 2018, Sen. Warner and Sen. Rubio sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging his country to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of Canada’s 5G development, introduction, and maintenance. Warner has also urged the Administration to work with our allies to combat these technology threats. Sens. Warner and Rubio are also the authors of bipartisan legislation to enforce full compliance by ZTE with all probationary conditions of a U.S. Commerce Department’s deal struck with the company last year that ended U.S. imposed sanctions.

 

For a copy of the bill text, click here

 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-founder of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, released the following statement on Marriott’s disclosure of a data breach affecting up to 500 million guests:  

“It seems like every other day we learn about a new mega-breach affecting the personal data of millions of Americans. Rather than accepting this trend as the new normal, this latest incident should strengthen Congress’ resolve. We must pass laws that require data minimization, ensuring companies do not keep sensitive data that they no longer need. And it is past time we enact data security laws that ensure companies account for security costs rather than making their consumers shoulder the burden and harms resulting from these lapses.”

 

###

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Warner (D-VA), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) pressed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to respond to reports that the company used contractors to retaliate against or spread intentionally inflammatory information about their critics. Since the 2016 election, both the government and Facebook internal investigations have revealed that the company failed to adequately protect the data of its 2.2 billion users. Recent reports—including one from the New York Times—allege that Facebook has taken significant steps to undermine critics, including hiring partisan political consultants to retaliate and spread intentionally inflammatory information about people who have criticized Facebook, which, if not properly disclosed, may have campaign finance implications.

“We are gravely concerned by recent reports indicating that your company used contractors to retaliate against or spread intentionally inflammatory information about your critics,” the senators wrote. “In addition, the staggering amount of data that Facebook has collected on both its users and people who have not subscribed to or consented to use of the platform, raises concern that the company could improperly or illegally use its vast financial and data resources against government officials and critics seeking to protect the public and our democracy.”

“Both elected officials and the general public have rightfully questioned whether Facebook is capable of regulating its own conduct.” 

Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and placing political ads on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. The content and purchaser(s) of those online advertisements are a mystery to the public because of outdated laws that have failed to keep up with evolving technology. The Honest Ads Act, led by Klobuchar, Warner, and the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and cosponsored by Coons and Blumenthal, would prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online, including social media platforms like Facebook, are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and print.

 

The full text of the letter can be found below:

 

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

 

We are gravely concerned by recent reports indicating that your company used contractors to retaliate against or spread intentionally inflammatory information about your critics.  

Since the 2016 election, both the government and your own internal investigations have revealed that your company failed to adequately protect the data of its 2.2 billion users. Your company also failed to implement protocols to prevent manipulation by foreign adversaries working to undermine America’s political system. Both elected officials and the general public have rightfully questioned whether Facebook is capable of regulating its own conduct.  

According to recent reports, your company hired contractors to retaliate and spread intentionally inflammatory information about people who have criticized Facebook, which, if not properly disclosed, may have campaign finance and other potential legal implications. In addition, the staggering amount of data that Facebook has collected on both its users and people who have not subscribed to or consented to use of the platform, raises concern that the company could improperly or illegally use its vast financial and data resources against government officials and critics seeking to protect the public and our democracy.

In light of these concerns, we respectfully request you answer the following questions:

 

1.      To your knowledge, did your company hire any entity – including, but not limited to research firms and contractors – to collect or find information to be used in retaliation against people who criticized Facebook, including elected officials who were scrutinizing your company?

 

2.      Did your company hire any entity – including, but not limited to research firms and contractors – to spread negative or intentionally inflammatory information in retaliation against people who criticized Facebook, including elected officials who were scrutinizing your company?

 

3.      Did your company – or any entity affiliated with or hired by your company – ever use any of the vast financial and data resources available to Facebook in retaliation against people who criticized Facebook, including elected officials who were scrutinizing your company?

 

4.      Did your company – or any entity affiliated with or hired by your company – ever seek to conceal information related to foreign interference with the 2016 U.S. election from the public or government investigators? 

 

5.      Did your company – or any entity affiliated with or hired by your company — ever contact any media outlets with negative or misleading information, or suggest, promote, or amplify negative or misleading social media about your critics, including elected officials scrutinizing your company?

 

6.      How much money have you expended or paid other entities to collect, find, spread or amplify information about people who have criticized Facebook, including elected officials scrutinizing your company? Has any of that spending been publically disclosed?

 

7.      Some of us have requested that the Deputy Attorney General expand the scope of the Department of Justice’s existing investigations to include the latest reports that Facebook hired contractors to retaliate and spread negative information about people who criticized the company. If the Department’s investigation is expanded to include this recent report, will you commit to co-operating with any investigation into this matter? 

 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request.

 

Sincerely,

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $4,799,911 in federal funds to boost broadband access in Southwest Virginia and on the Eastern Shore. The funding, awarded through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Community Connect Grant Program, will be used to construct and expand broadband access in rural and underserved communities. 

“Broadband access is vital to the economic success of the Commonwealth and the nation,” the Senators said. “These federal funds will help Virginia connect to the digital age while expanding access to healthcare, educational, and job opportunities.” 

The Scott County Telephone Cooperative will receive $3,000,000 to construct a fiber-to-the home broadband system that will provide internet access to 554 households and 20 businesses in Scott County, Virginia. A community center will also be established where residents will have free access to computers and WiFi. 

Eastern Shore Communications, LLC will receive $1,799,911 to construct a broadband fiber fixed-wireless high-speed network capable of servicing residents of Chincoteague, Wallops Island, Accomac, Exmore, Cape Charles, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Norfolk with speeds of at least 25 megabits downstream and 3 megabits upstream. 

Warner and Kaine have been strong supporters of expanding broadband access in Virginia as Governors and Senators. In February, Warner and Kaine joined a bipartisan group of colleagues to urge President Trump to include broadband in an infrastructure initiative.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement after a state-owned enterprise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), a Taiwan company, and three individuals were indicted for a conspiracy to steal trade secrets from the American semiconductor company Micron:

“The reciprocal trading system that has existed between the U.S. and China can endure only on the basis of mutual respect for the rule of law, including fair trials and the enforcement of property rights. The Chinese government’s complicity in intellectual property theft hurts American manufacturers, workers, and consumers, and undermines the ability of U.S. businesses to operate in China. The Administration has powerful, targeted tools at its disposal to hold bad actors accountable for theft of U.S. companies’ IP and trade secrets, even when the theft takes place abroad. I applaud the Department of Justice for using one of those tools today to hold China accountable, and encourage the Administration to take additional steps to crack down on economic espionage by Chinese businesses and the Chinese government.”

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Banking Committee, wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons expressing concern following a report published by Buzzfeed detailing continued prevalence of digital advertising fraud and inaction by Google to curb these efforts. According Buzzfeed, this scheme has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent advertising revenues, with operations spanning more than 125 Android apps and websites.

In July 2016, Sen. Warner and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote to FTC Chairwoman Ramirez calling on the agency to protect consumers from the growing digital ad fraud phenomenon. Since then, reports have estimated that digital ad fraud has only grown to $7.4 billion in 2017 – and projected to rise to $10.9 billion by 2021.

At the center of Buzzfeed’s report is Google, the only tech company absent for the Senate Intelligence Committee’s September hearing on social media’s role in protecting elections from misinformation and disinformation. The extent to which many popular online communications technologies have been exploited – and their providers caught repeatedly flat-footed – has been continuously highlighted in the course of investigating Russia’s unprecedented inference in the 2016 election. In the same way that bots, trolls, click-farms, fake pages and groups, ads, and algorithm-gaming can be used to propagate political disinformation, these same tools can – and have – been used to assist click fraud in digital advertising markets and efforts to convince large numbers of users to download malicious apps on their phones.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below.

The Honorable Joseph J. Simons
Chairman
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Chairman Simons,

I am writing to express my continued concern with the prevalence of digital advertising fraud, and in particular the inaction of major industry stakeholders in curbing these abuses. In 2016, Senator Schumer and I wrote Chairwoman Ramirez to express frustration with the growing phenomenon of digital ad fraud. Digital ad fraud has only grown since that time, rising to $7.4 billion in 2017 – and projected to rise to $10.9 billion by 2021. I am greatly concerned with recent reporting from Buzzfeed, detailing a massive digital advertising fraud scheme that depends, in large part, on a network of compromised Android apps. As Buzzfeed reports, this scheme generated hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent advertising revenues, with operations spanning more than 125 Android apps and websites.

In the course of investigating Russia’s unprecedented interference in the 2016 election, the extent to which many popular online communications technologies have been exploited – and their providers caught repeatedly flat-footed – has been unmistakable. More than illuminating the capacity of these technologies to be exploited by bad actors, the revelations of the last year have revealed the dark underbelly of an entire ecosystem. In the same way that bots, trolls, click-farms, fake pages and groups, ads, and algorithm-gaming can be used to propagate political disinformation, these same tools can – and have – been used to assist financial frauds such as stock-pumping schemes, click fraud in digital advertising markets, schemes to sell counterfeit prescription drugs, and efforts to convince large numbers of users to download malicious apps on their phones.

According to Buzzfeed, a recent ad fraud ring vividly illustrates this problem, with potentially millions of consumers unwittingly downloading and engaging with apps that captured the behavior of app users in order to program a network of bots mimicking user activity to engage in multi-million dollar ad fraud. While these techniques continue to grow more sophisticated, none of this is new for industry stakeholders. Sophisticated, user-mimicking bots have been widely publicized for a number of years now. According to leading researchers, one in five ad-serving websites is visited exclusively by bots engaged in ad fraud. Digital ad fraud thrives because of the opaqueness of the programmatic ad market, where user data is bought and sold in ways users are unwitting to, in order to target advertisements in ever more sophisticated ways.

At the center of this scheme was a strategy of buying moderately popular, legitimate Android apps – seemingly innocuous products like mobile games, a flashlight app, and a healthy eating app – and using the installed user base as both a source of fake traffic and behavioral data to model fraudulent bot behavior. Google’s inattention to misconduct within its app store has been a growing concern. In November of 2017, researchers found that over 1 million users had downloaded a spoofed version of WhatsApp. Researchers also routinely find banking Trojans and other malware in the Google Play store. While Google made an estimated $20 billion last year from the Google Play store, its mobile app ecosystem features considerably more malware and fraudulent activity than that of its mobile operating system competitors.

Google’s inattention to misconduct within its app store also enabled the extensive fraud involved here. In addition to failing to notify users of the change in ownership, Google failed to detect changes in the apps that facilitated extensive user tracking subsequently used for bot behavior. Nor did it detect the myriad indicators of coordinated fraudulent activity between the apps – including overlaps in app content, source code, IP addresses, SDKs, and common traffic patterns. Despite being approached by researchers in June with evidence of part of this scheme, Google failed to dig deeper to reveal the full scope of this fraudulent activity. While there is no evidence Google had direct knowledge, Google’s ad network and ad exchanges were also implicated in these schemes. At the very least, it seems that across a number of its products Google may have engaged in willful blindness, all while profiting from this fraudulent activity. 

I encourage you to look closely at these reports, including the extent to which major ecosystem stakeholders engage in willful blindness to fraudulent activity in the online ad market.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Committee, urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of Canada’s 5G development, introduction, and maintenance. A letter from the two Senators to the Prime Minister follows comments made by Head-Designee of the Canadian Center for Cyber Security Scott Jones regarding Huawei. 

The entry of Chinese state-directed telecommunications companies like Huawei into the Canadian market could seriously jeopardize the relationship between U.S. and Canadian carriers, depriving North American operators of the scale needed to rapidly build out 5G networks.

The full text of the letter is below. A copy of the signed letter is available here. 

 

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:

 

We write with grave concerns about the possibility that Canada might include Huawei Technologies or any other Chinese state-directed telecommunications company in its fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications network infrastructure.  As you are aware, Huawei is not a normal private-sector company.  There is ample evidence to suggest that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese government and Communist Party—and Huawei, which China’s government and military tout as a “national champion,” is no exception.

 

Based on what we know about Chinese state-directed telecommunications companies, it was troubling to learn that on September 20, 2018, the new Head-Designee of the Canadian Center for Cyber Security Scott Jones told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security that banning Huawei is not needed, in response to a question about why Canada has not come out against Huawei as other Five Eyes allies have.  Specifically, he claimed that Canada has “a very advanced relationship with our telecommunications providers, something that is different from most other countries,” adding, “We have a program that is very deep in terms of working on increasing that broader resilience piece especially as we are looking at the next-generation telecommunications networks.”

 

In contrast to Mr. Scott’s comments, however, three former senior Canadian national security officials warned earlier this year against the inclusion of Huawei in Canada’s 5G network.  One of them—Mr. Ward Elcock, former Deputy Minister of National Defence—told the Globe and Mail on March 18, 2018, “I have a pretty good idea of how signal-intelligence agencies work and the rules under which they work and their various operations,” concluding that, “I would not want to see Huawei equipment being incorporated into a 5G network in Canada.”

 

While Canada has strong telecommunications security safeguards in place, we have serious concerns that such safeguards are inadequate given what the United States and other allies know about Huawei.  Indeed, we are concerned about the impact that any decision to include Huawei in Canada’s 5G networks will have on both Canadian national security and “Five Eyes” joint intelligence cooperation among the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.  As you know, Australia effectively banned Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese state-directed companies from its nation’s 5G networks by excluding firms that “are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government” and therefore pose unacceptable risks to national security.  Moreover, the United Kingdom’s Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre Oversight Board’s 2018 annual report to Britain’s national security adviser found that “identification of shortcomings in Huawei’s engineering processes have exposed new risks in the UK telecommunications networks and long-term challenges to mitigation and management.”

 

Further, the strong alignment between the United States and Canada in spectrum management has meant that American and Canadian carriers in many cases share complementary spectrum holdings, jointly benefiting from economies of scale for equipment designed for regionally harmonized frequencies. The entry of suppliers such as Huawei into the Canadian market could seriously jeopardize this dynamic, depriving both Canadian and American operators of the scale needed to rapidly build out 5G networks.

 

Given the strong statements by former Canadian national security officials as well as similar concerns out of the U.S., Australia, and the United Kingdom, we hope that you will reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of Canada’s 5G development, introduction, and maintenance.  Should you have any questions about the threat that Chinese state-directed telecommunications firms pose to your networks, we urge your government to seek additional information from the U.S. Intelligence Community.

 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, released the following statement on the announcement by Facebook that it discovered a security issue affecting almost 50 million accounts: 

“The news that at least 50 million Facebook users had their accounts compromised is deeply concerning. A full investigation should be swiftly conducted and made public so that we can understand more about what happened.  

“Today’s disclosure is a reminder about the dangers posed when a small number of companies like Facebook or the credit bureau Equifax are able to accumulate so much personal data about individual Americans without adequate security measures. 

“This is another sobering indicator that Congress needs to step up and take action to protect the privacy and security of social media users. As I’ve said before – the era of the Wild West in social media is over.”  

To kick start the debate around social media legislation, Sen. Warner in July released a white paper containing a suite of potential policy proposals for the regulation of social media.


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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, released the following statement on the White House’s National Cyber Strategy:

“There is not one sector of American society, public or private, that has escaped the threat posed by malicious cyber actors. The entertainment industry, federal, state and local governments, hospitals, and the banking sector – to name just a few examples – have all suffered from major cyber incursions in recent years. Given the scale and frequency of these attacks, and the urgency of the challenge, I have been calling for some time for a national cyber strategy to build resiliency and deter adversaries.

“The White House strategy document outlines a number of important and well-established cyber priorities. We need to focus on growing the cyber workforce, promoting more secure development and security across product lifecycle, establishing norms of responsible state behavior, leveraging federal procurement power to drive better security, and publicly attributing and punishing adversaries who violate those standards. The Administration must now move beyond vague policy proposals and into concrete action towards achieving those goals.”


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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, led a bipartisan group of senators in sending a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai that raises grave concerns and critical questions about Google’s reported plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China that would prohibit websites and search terms objected to by the Chinese government and Communist Party. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Cory Gardner (R-CO) also signed the letter.

The full text of the letter is here and below:

Dear Mr. Pichai:

We write in response to recent news reports about Google’s plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China—codenamed “Dragonfly”—that would prohibit websites and search terms deemed objectionable by the Chinese government and Communist Party.  If true, this reported plan is deeply troubling and risks making Google complicit in human rights abuses related to China’s rigorous censorship regime.

After a cyberattack that compromised the Gmail accounts of dozens of Chinese human rights activists, Google’s March 2010 decision to stop censoring results on Google.cn was widely praised.  The company’s statement at the time noted:  “We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.

Chinese authorities, however, continue to censor a broad range of news and social media topics that they have deemed politically “sensitive” due to their belief that these topics may contribute to criticism of the Chinese government and Communist Party, and possibly lead to collective action.  In recent weeks, a significant vaccine scandal in China, which may have affected the health of hundreds of thousands of Chinese children, has run afoul of censors.  News reports indicate that, as of last Monday, the Chinese word for “vaccine” was one of the most restricted on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblog platform.

Moreover, China has in recent years harnessed the power of communications technology to advance its surveillance and social control efforts. The Financial Times recently reported that  the largest technology companies in China—including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, and JD.com—are “inextricably linked with the Chinese state and its security apparatus, and the authorities retain the upper hand in the relationship.” Google’s reported activity to build applications compatible with Chinese censorship demands is all the more concerning in light of relationships that Google has made with these companies, including a technology cross-licensing joint venture with Tencent and an investment of $550 million in JD.com.

It is a coup for the Chinese government and Communist Party to force Google—the biggest search engine in the world—to comply with their onerous censorship requirements, and sets a worrying precedent for other companies seeking to do business in China without compromising their core values.  In light of these reports, we respectfully request answers to the following questions:

  • Is Google in the process of developing a censored search engine or other censored applications for China?  If so, will this be part of a joint venture with a Chinese domestic partner?
  • What has changed since 2010 to make Google comfortable cooperating with the rigorous censorship regime in China?
  • In many cases, the entrance of a western firm in China is conditioned upon that firm entering a joint venture with a domestic Chinese firm. Was Google’s decision to enter a joint venture with Tencent connected in any way with its efforts to enter the Chinese market via the custom search app?
  • If Google is working on a search product for the mainland Chinese market, which “blacklist” of censored searches and websites are you using?  Are there any phrases or words that Google is refusing to censor?
  • Will Google employees involved in managing “Dragonfly” be required to attend the official mandatory trainings on “Marxist news values” and “socialist values” as required of other technology companies that provide Internet news content services in China?
  • Presumably Google will comply with China’s Cybersecurity Law and its data localization requirements. Will Google provide information about the search histories of individual users to Chinese government authorities? What confidence does Google have that its local joint venture partner will abide by any user protections that Google puts in place?

We appreciate your prompt reply to this inquiry, including any views that you are prepared to share as to how this reported development can be reconciled with Google’s unofficial motto, “Don’t be evil.”

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement today after Facebook announced that it removed 32 Pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram that showed connections to and activity consistent with previous Russian disinformation efforts: 

“Today’s disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation, and I am glad that Facebook is taking some steps to pinpoint and address this activity. I also expect Facebook, along with other platform companies, will continue to identify Russian troll activity and to work with Congress on updating our laws to better protect our democracy in the future.”  

In October, Sen. Warner – along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John McCain (R-AZ) – introduced the Honest Ads Act to help prevent foreign interference in elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Senate Banking and Finance committees, issued the below statement regarding the U.S. Department of Commerce’s agreement to lift the ban on Chinese telecom giant ZTE doing business with American suppliers:

“I share the grave concerns of our military and the intelligence community, which are unanimous in their conclusion that ZTE — a state-controlled company with ties to Chinese intelligence — presents an ongoing threat to our national security. I also share many of the concerns the President has voiced in the past about China’s unfair trade practices, which have cheated American workers and permitted Chinese companies to steal the intellectual property of American firms with virtually no consequences. 

“This sweetheart deal not only ignores these serious issues, it lets ZTE off the hook for evading sanctions against Iran and North Korea with a slap on the wrist.”

 

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WASHINTON- U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee, and Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, urged the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to implement the strongest possible transparency and accountability requirements for online advertisements in response to the proposed rulemaking. The letter comes as the FEC begins public hearings today on online advertisements. 

“During the 2016 election cycle, Russians took advantage of weak online disclaimer and disclosure rules to purchase online political advertisements. As we rapidly approach the 2018 election, intelligence officials have warned that Russia is currently working to disrupt our elections again,” the senators wrote.

“People have a right to know who is behind the information they receive, and in particular who is trying to influence their vote. This necessitates new disclaimer and disclosure requirements for all online advertisements. Primary elections are already upon us and the general election is only 131 days away. Therefore, we encourage you to quickly adopt the strongest possible rule to increase transparency and accountability for online advertisements.” 

Klobuchar, Warner and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) are the authors of the bipartisan Honest Ads Act, legislation to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. The Honest Ads Act would prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.

The full text of the letter can be found below:

 

Dear Commissioners:

 

As you conduct hearings this week on “Internet Disclaimers and Definition of Public Communication”, we encourage you to issue the strongest possible rule that will increase transparency and accountability for online advertisements.

 

During the 2016 election cycle, Russians took advantage of weak online disclaimer and disclosure rules to purchase online political advertisements. As part of a wide social media exploitation effort, Russia spent at least $100,000 dollars—in rubles—on Facebook ads to influence the 2016 election. According to Facebook responses to investigations by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Senate Judiciary Committee, Russian disinformation reached more than 126 million Americans online.

 

As we rapidly approach the 2018 election, intelligence officials have warned that Russia is currently working to disrupt our elections again. As Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats stated earlier this year, “[t]he 2018 U.S. midterm elections are a potential target for Russian influence operations” and Russia will conduct “bolder and more disruptive cyber operations.”   Senate Intelligence Committee members determined that foreign actors illegally influenced the 2016 presidential election and that something has to be done to stop this from occurring in the future.

 

Online platforms dwarf broadcast, satellite, and cable providers. The largest internet platform has over 210 million American users. The largest cable provider only has 22 million subscribers – nearly an order of magnitude greater. That is why we introduced the Honest Ads Act earlier this year. Our legislation would apply the same rules to online political advertisements that already exist for traditional media and require digital advertisers to maintain a public record of political ads purchased. By requiring the same rules across all advertising platforms, we can limit foreign attempts to influence our elections, increase transparency in political advertising, and promote greater accountability.

 

People have a right to know who is behind the information they receive, and in particular who is trying to influence their vote. This necessitates new disclaimer and disclosure requirements for all online advertisements. Primary elections are already upon us and the general election is only 131 days away. Therefore, we encourage you to quickly adopt the strongest possible rule to increase transparency and accountability for online advertisements.

 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to President Trump, urging him to re-consider the deal lifting the ZTE ban, and to support the Senate-passed ban on government purchases of ZTE and Huawei equipment. Sen. Warner is the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Finance and Banking committees. Sen. Rubio is a member of Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees.  

In the letter to President Trump, the Senators wrote, “The Senate and the U.S. Intelligence Community are in agreement that ZTE poses a significant threat to our national security.  The Senate recently voted 85-10 to reimpose the April sanctions order and the ban on ZTE buying U.S. components, and to prohibit the U.S. federal government from purchasing ZTE or Huawei equipment and contracting with any entity that purchases such equipment.  We urge you to heed the leaders of the U.S. Intelligence Community, supported by a strong bipartisan consensus in the Senate, that we must pursue policies that prevent the widespread use of ZTE products in the U.S.”

The Senators noted that at a February 13, 2018 hearing in the Intelligence Committee, six of the nation’s top intelligence leaders – the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the heads of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Security Agency (NSA), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) – testified about the risks posed to U.S. national security by ZTE and Huawei. Additionally, the nation’s top counterintelligence officer, Director of the National Counterintelligence Security Center Bill Evanina, testified at his May 15, 2018, confirmation hearing that Chinese telecom companies such as ZTE and Huawei pose a significant threat to American security.   

“As you know, this is not a new threat. Congressionally documented concerns date back to a 2012 House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence report on the serious counterintelligence concerns associated with ZTE equipment, the ties between the company and government, and the risks to American national security,” the Senators added. “ZTE, though publicly traded, is a state-backed enterprise that is ultimately loyal not to its shareholders, but to the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese government.  This patronage relationship poses unacceptable risks to American sovereignty; risks that will only increase if the company is permitted to establish itself deeply in America’s telecommunications infrastructure.”

The full letter is available here and below. 

 

June 26, 2018

 

The President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC  20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

We urge you to reconsider your decision to amend the April ZTE sanctions order and lift the ban the Commerce Department imposed this year that prohibited ZTE from buying U.S. components, and we ask for your support for the Senate-passed ban on the government buying ZTE and Huawei equipment.  We strongly believe that the April sanctions order—which would have threatened ZTE’s survival—should not be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations with China on unrelated matters.  

 

The Senate and the U.S. Intelligence Community are in agreement that ZTE poses a significant threat to our national security.  The Senate recently voted 85-10 to reimpose the April sanctions order and the ban on ZTE buying U.S. components,  and to prohibit the U.S. federal government from purchasing ZTE or Huawei equipment and contracting with any entity that purchases such equipment.  We urge you to heed the leaders of the U.S. Intelligence Community, supported by a strong bipartisan consensus in the Senate, that we must pursue policies that prevent the widespread use of ZTE products in the U.S.

 

At the Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing on February 13, 2018, six top intelligence leaders testified about the risk of ZTE and Huawei to American national security: 

 

·         FBI Director Wray stated: “We’re deeply concerned about 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 that provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure.  It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information, and it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”  

·         Then-NSA Director Rogers warned:  “I would agree with Director Wray’s characterization here.  This is a challenge I think that's only going to increase, not lessen, over time for us.” To mayors, county judges, university presidents, and state legislatures, “I would say you need to look long and hard at companies like this.”

·         The Director of National Intelligence, and the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA, DIA, and NGA all indicated they would not use products or services from ZTE or Huawei; nor would they recommend private American citizens do so. 

 

Additionally, the nation’s top counterintelligence officer, Director of the National Counterintelligence Security Center Bill Evanina, testified at his May 15, 2018, confirmation hearing that “the Intelligence Community and law enforcement is clearly on the record, both in the public and in classified settings, with the threat from Chinese telecommunications companies.”

 

As you know, this is not a new threat. Congressionally documented concerns date back to a 2012 House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence report on the serious counterintelligence concerns associated with ZTE equipment, the ties between the company and government, and the risks to American national security. 

 

ZTE, though publicly traded, is a state-backed enterprise that is ultimately loyal not to its shareholders, but to the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese government.  This patronage relationship poses unacceptable risks to American sovereignty; risks that will only increase if the company is permitted to establish itself deeply in America’s telecommunications infrastructure.

 

Thank you for your attention to this important matter and for your assistance in ensuring we protect our nation’s future from authoritarian influence.

 

Sincerely,

 

Mark R. Warner

United States Senator

 

Marco Rubio

United States Senator

 

 

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