Chinese computer parts replaced at U.S. nuke lab

A 1999 file photo of signs posted at the gate around the main technical area at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The nation's leading nuclear weapons laboratory recently discovered that Chinese-made computer parts had been installed on its systems and had the components replaced owing to concerns about national security.

The removal of the parts - network switches from Hangzhou, China-based H3C Technologies Co. - was noted in a letter dated November 5, 2012, from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, reports Reuters.

It is not known how many Chinese-made switches were installed at the facility, or whether they were in areas that in any way compromised security, but Reuters says the letter indicates there may be other H3C switch devices installed.

H3C, once called Huawei-3Com, was established as a joint venture between the Chinese firm Huawei Technologies Co., and the U.S.-based 3Com Corp. H3C was acquired by Hewlett Packard in 2010.

Last October Steve Kroft and "60 Minutes" reported on the technology giant Huawei, which has become the world's largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment - everything from smart phones to switchers and routers.

Huawei's bid to build the next generation of digital networks in the United States prompted an outcry in Washington, and a year-long investigation by the House Intelligence Committee that has raised concerns about national security, Chinese espionage, and Huawei's murky connections to the Chinese government.

The House Select Intelligence Committee's report found that Huawei failed to provide thorough information about its "corporate structure, history, ownership, operations, financial arrangements, or management," its "formal relationships or regulatory interaction with Chinese authorities," or "the precise role of each company's Chinese Communist Party Committee."

It recommended that parts from Huawei and another firm, ZTE, should not be purchased for use in U.S. government computer systems because the companies "cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence," and subsequently pose "a security threat."

In an email to Reuters, William Plummer, Huawei's vice president of external affairs in Washington, D.C., wrote, "There has never been a shred of substantive proof that Huawei gear is any less secure than that of our competitors, all of which rely on common global standards, supply chains, coding and manufacturing.

"Blackballing legitimate multinationals based on country of origin is reckless, both in terms of fostering a dangerously false sense of cyber-security and in threatening the free and fair global trading system that the U.S. has championed for the last 60-plus years."

Huawei sold its stake in H3C in 2007, but is described by H3C as one of its "global strategic partners."

In 2008, a bid by Huawei and Bain Capital to buy 3Com was rejected by a U.S. panel over national security concerns. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a branch of the Treasury Department, has also blocked moves by Huawei to expand its operations in the U.S.

Last month Reuters reported that in 2010 a major Iranian partner of Huawei tried to help Iran evade trade sanctions by offering to sell at least $1.7 million worth of embargoed Hewlett-Packard computer equipment to that nation's largest mobile-phone operator.

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