FBI director warns China's ZTE could 'maliciously modify or steal information' of U.S. consumers

FBI director Christopher Wray warned a Senate panel Wednesday that giving certain foreign telecoms companies access to the American market could significantly compromise U.S. national security. Questioning by the panel was specifically related to a company for which Donald Trump recently tweeted his support—China’s ZTE, which announced it was closing operations after Trump’s own Treasury Department slapped it with sanctions last month. 

Wray tried to avoid upsetting his boss by not mentioning ZTE by name, but here’s what he told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, according to Politico.

“We at the FBI remain deeply concerned that any company beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values are not companies that we want to be gaining positions of power inside our telecommunications network.

“That gives them the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information, that gives them the capacity to conduct undetected espionage, that gives them the capacity to exert pressure or control,” he added.

Trump launched a surprise China First policy last weekend when he fretted over “too many jobs” lost due to ZTE’s closure. His sudden concern for ZTE came shortly after the Chinese government decided to pour $500 million into a Trump Organization real estate development, accounting for fully one-half of the development’s projected budget.

Pretty much everyone who cares about U.S. national security has expressed concern over ZTE’s access to the American market, including the heads of the FBI, CIA and NSA (National Security Agency).

Wray’s concerns are just the latest to be voiced by a high-level national security official. Similar warnings came on Tuesday from the nation’s top counterintelligence official, Bill Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center. As reporters hurled questions at Trump in the Oval Office Thursday, he admitted ZTE “did very bad things to our country.”

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