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Pentagon says Chinese cellphones are 'security risk,' bans sale at bases

The U.S. military says the phones may pose an "unacceptable" security risk.
Image: People walk past a sign board of Huawei at CES Asia 2016 in Shanghai
People walk past a sign board of Huawei at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Asia 2016 in Shanghai, China on May 12, 2016.Aly Song / Reuters file

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has ordered stores at U.S. military bases to stop selling two brands of Chinese-made cellphones and modems because the devices may pose a security risk.

Huawei and ZTE products are now being removed from the three store chains operated by the Defense Department at installations worldwide, said Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Dave Eastburn.

"Huawei and ZTE devices may pose an unacceptable risk to the department's personnel, information and mission," said Eastburn. "Given the security concerns associated with these devices, as expressed by senior U.S. intelligence officials, it was not prudent for the Department's exchange services to continue selling these products to our personnel."

Image: Visitors try Huawei's devices during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona
Visitors try Huawei's devices during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain on February 27, 2017.Eric Gaillard / Reuters file

The directive to remove the devices from shelves was issued on April 25. Eastburn said that service members should be aware of the potential risk posed by the products, regardless of where they were purchased.

Eastburn said that during recent testimony before the Senate, the Director of National Intelligence and the heads of the FBI, CIA, NSA DIA and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency all said that Americans should not use Huawei products because of security concerns.

He said he could not discuss the nature of the potential threat for security reasons. U.S. officials had previously expressed concerns that the phones could be designed to permit access by the Chinese government.

Huawei is the third largest smartphone maker in the world, behind Apple and Samsung, and the largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment.

Huawei has denied that its products pose a security risk. In a statement, company spokesman Charles Zinkowski said, "Huawei’s products are sold in 170 countries worldwide and meet the highest standards of security, privacy and engineering in every country we operate globally including the U.S.

"We remain committed to openness and transparency in everything we do and want to be clear that no government has ever asked us to compromise the security or integrity of any of our networks or devices."