US cancelled a Chinese ornate garden offer over Huawei concerns: Report

Chinese offer to build an ornate garden in Washington with temples, pavilions and a 70-foot white pagoda, was cancelled after   a frenzy of counter-intelligence activity, CNN reported.

“On paper, it looked like a fantastic deal with the Chinese government offering to spend $100 million to build?an ornate Chinese garden at the National Arboretum in Washington DC”, the report said about the 2017 proposal, which the local officials hoped would attract thousands of tourists every year.??? ??

But when US counterintelligence officials began digging into the details, they found numerous red flags.

The pagoda, they noted, would have been strategically placed on one of the highest points in Washington DC, just two miles from the US Capitol, a perfect spot for signals intelligence collection, multiple sources familiar with the episode told CNN.??

Also, alarming was that Chinese officials wanted to build the pagoda with materials shipped to the US in diplomatic pouches, which US Customs officials are barred from examining, the sources said, according to the CNN.?? ?

Federal officials quietly?killed?the project before construction was underway.??????

Since at least 2017, federal officials have investigated Chinese land purchases near critical infrastructure, shut down a high-profile regional consulate believed by the US government to be a hotbed of Chinese spies and stonewalled what they saw as clear efforts to plant listening devices near sensitive military and government facilities, said the CNN dispatch.?? ?

Among the most alarming things the FBI uncovered, according to the report, pertains to Chinese-made Huawei?equipment atop cell towers near US military bases in the?rural Midwest. According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, the FBI determined the equipment was capable of capturing and disrupting highly restricted Defense Department communications, including those used by US Strategic Command, which oversees the country’s nuclear weapons, it said.

While broad concerns about Huawei equipment near US military installations have been well known, the existence of this investigation and its findings have never been reported.?Its origins stretch back to at least the Obama administration. It was described to CNN by more than a dozen sources, including current and former national security officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. ?

Former officials?described the probe’s findings as a watershed moment. The investigation was so?secret?that some senior policymakers in the White House and elsewhere in government weren’t briefed on its existence until 2019, according to two sources familiar with the matter.   ?

The Chinese government strongly denies any efforts to spy on the US. Huawei in a statement to CNN also denied that its equipment is capable of operating in any communications spectrum allocated to the Defense Department.?

But multiple sources familiar with the investigation tell CNN that there’s no question the Huawei equipment?has the ability to intercept not only commercial cell traffic but also the?highly restricted airwaves used by?the military and disrupt critical US Strategic Command communications, giving the Chinese government a potential window into America’s nuclear arsenal. ?

In 2020, Congress?approved $1.9 billion?to remove Chinese-made Huawei and ZTE cellular technology across wide swaths of rural America.??? ???

After the Biden administration took office in 2021, the Commerce Department opened its own probe into Huawei to determine if more urgent action was needed to expunge the Chinese technology provider from US telecom networks, the former law enforcement official and a current senior US official said.

That probe has proceeded slowly and is ongoing, the current US official said

US counterintelligence officials have recently made a priority of publicizing threats from China. 

FBI Director Christopher Wray just travelled to London for a joint meeting with top British law enforcement officials to call attention to the Chinese threats.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Wray said the FBI opens a new China counterintelligence investigation every 12 hours. “That’s probably about 2,000 or so investigations,” said Wray. “And that’s not even talking about their cyber theft, where they have a bigger hacking program than that of every other major nation combined, and have stolen more of Americans’ personal and corporate data than every nation combined.” ????