by WorldTribune Staff, October 12, 2021
The Secret Service and FBI have purchased drones from a Chinese company which the Pentagon had previously determined poses a threat to U.S. national security, a report said.
The Secret Service on July 26 bought eight drones from the Chinese manufacturer DJI, according to procurement records obtained by the industry publication IPVM. The records were shared with Axios, which reported on the purchases.
A few days before the Secret Service purchase, the FBI bought 19 DJI drones, records show.
Days before the drone purchases were made, the Defense Department released a statement saying DJI products “pose potential threats to national security.”
Concerns about DJI’s drones emerged in 2017 when the Department of Homeland Security stated with “moderate confidence” that DJI was “providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government.”
“In 2019, the Interior Department, which also uses DJI products, grounded its entire non-emergency drone fleet because of concerns about Chinese government intrusions,” Axios noted.
The Commerce Department added DJI to an export blacklist last year after Bloomberg reported it had supplied surveillance technology to Chinese security forces in Xinjiang, where millions of Uighur Muslims have been forced into internment camps.
“DJI’s cyber security vulnerabilities are well documented,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio told Axios. “Given everything we know about the Chinese Communist Party and its companies, there is absolutely no excuse for any government agency to use DJI drones, or any other drones manufactured in countries identified as national security threats.”
DJI’s products are used for personal and commercial purposes, but they also require the user to download proprietary DJI software, and to fly using mapping databases that have the potential to be monitored remotely.
“If the federal government is purchasing DJI drones for counter-drone or other security research — fine,” Klon Kitchen, a defense and cybersecurity expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told Axios. “But otherwise, in a world where you have plenty of alternatives — including some U.S. alternatives that are very good — why would federal agencies assume the inherent risks of Chinese-made systems?”