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Proposed Chinese Telecom Deal Raises Specter of Spying

Photo: Jeanphillipe DeLisle

A proposed deal between Sprint Nextel, Cricket and two Chinese telecom companies has raised a few eyebrows, with some U.S. senators concerned about security.

The Hill reports a bipartisan group of legislators wrote a letter seeking reassurance about the deal from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski.

The letter, signed by Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), contends the two Chinese companies, ZTE Corporation and Huawei, have ties to the Chinese military and are financed by the Chinese government.

The letter raised the specter of the Chinese government or military using the companies to spy on American communications.

The letter also states the two companies are “potentially subject to significant influence by the Chinese military, which may create an opportunity for manipulation of switches, routers, or software embedded in American telecommunications network so that communications can be disrupted, intercepted, tampered with, or purposely misrouted.

“This would pose a real threat to our national security,” the letter concludes.

The letter asks FCC what legal authority it has to review foreign technologies and software.

According to The Hill, one of the companies in question, Huawei has repeatedly denied any sinister implications in the proposed deal. When reports about the deal first surfaced over the summer, the company insisted it was a private entity and “government and military organizations do not hold any shares or control the company in any form,” according to The Hill.

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