State Dept. buy of 15,000 Chinese computers spawns fear in DC

"The opportunities for intelligence gains by the Chinese are phenomenal," says a member of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

More concern over foreign companies being involved in US government functions: The New York Times reports that the State Dept. is being criticized for purchasing 15,000 Lenovo personal computers in a purchase worth $13 million. Lenovo is the Chinese company that bought IBM's PC business last year. A State spokesman said the computers were intended for unclassified use.

Is the US on the verge of isolationist paranoia? A Dubai company running US ports may be one thing, but the squashing of the Sourcefire deal over open source software the company created but does not control makes a good deal less sense. Killing a deal to buy PCs because they're made by a Chinese company makes hardly any.

Critics of the deal are worried the Chinese government could use the PCs to spy on US embassies and intelligence activities.

"The opportunities for intelligence gains by the Chinese are phenomenal," said Michael R. Wessel, a member of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission. . . . Larry M. Wortzel, the commission's chairman, said in an interview two weeks ago that while he would not be concerned if Airbus moved an aircraft production line to China, he would be worried if Lenovo ever started to sell computers to American government agencies involved in foreign affairs. Responding on Thursday to the Lenovo deal, he predicted that "members of Congress, I think, will react very strongly when they see a deal like this come through."

 Word got out when CDW Government announced they had a deal to supply the government with PCs.

CDW, based in Vernon Hills, Ill., said that it had been carrying out an $11.65 million contract to supply the State Department with more than 15,000 Lenovo ThinkCentre M51 desktop computers, plus a $1.35 million contract to provide nearly 1,000 Lenovo ThinkCentre M51 minitower computers.

State officials had approved Lenovo PCs in the acquisition, and the Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States had also approved the deal.


 

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