US Agencies Bought Federally Banned Chinese Surveillance Technology

Several federal agencies have purchased surveillance equipment made in China. The equipment was banned from use by the US government.

US Agencies Bought Federally Banned Chinese Surveillance Technology

December 1, 2021

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Several federal agencies have purchased surveillance equipment made in China. The equipment was banned from use by the US government. Records revealed that the US government spent thousands of dollars on surveillance equipment made by a subsidiary of Dahua Technology, which is a Chinese company banned from selling to the US. The US government added Dahua Technology to its watch list for violating human rights in China. The company is a leading producer of surveillance equipment used by the government in Xinjiang. The Drug Enforcement Agency ordered nine hard drives from IBM in May 2021, though it did not provide details on the nature of the surveillance equipment. The documents were acquired through the government's online shopping portal.

According to Christina Wilkes, a spokesperson for the General Services Administration, the agency has multiple means to ensure that its procurement platform, known as GSA Advantage, is used to purchase covered technology. Due to the implementation of the ban, many off-the-shelf products were available for purchase. The agency is currently working on a new verified products portal to ensure that the products are compliant with the regulations.

In 2019, a ban on the procurement of electronic products made by China-based companies was signed into law. This included certain firms such as Huawei, Dahua, and Hikvision. Section 889 of the NDAA prohibits the US government from buying or selling electronic equipment made by China-based companies. Records also show that the Pentagon’s financial management agency, which processes the pay of service-members, bought video surveillance cameras through an online store in July 2021. In July 2021, a facility of DFAS identified a need for a surveillance camera to monitor an isolated area. Due to the current restrictions on video surveillance equipment and telecommunications services, the camera and its controller were removed from service.

The Army's acquisition of video surveillance equipment from three companies started in 2019. As of August 13, 2020, the Defense Department has implemented the prohibitions on certain provisions of the National Defense Act. Companies that propose on a federal contract are required to verify their compliance with applicable regulations and clauses. The committee also called on the Defense Department to investigate the reports and take appropriate action. Records also indicated that at least four federal agencies reportedly bought Lorex equipment following the ban.

Senator Mark Warner, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the US needs to improve how it manages the origin of commercial equipment bought by government agencies and departments. He also noted that the committee added provisions in 2019 that prevent the federal government from supporting companies that might be engaging in human rights abuses. Eddie Migues, the co-founder of I.S. Enterprises, said the company is investigating the purchases. Although the ban on government contractors from supplying equipment to the military has been in effect since 2007, some have argued that the government gave them too much time to comply.

Lorex products are designed for business use only and not for use by federal agencies or contractors subject to the NDAA.

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