America’s most sensitive phone records will soon fall under the control of a foreign-owned company that once employed a Chinese national and whose owners had given money to Bill Clinton amid a sanctions scandal.
As of Sunday, April 7, the phone record database, which is central to “all significant criminal and national security investigations” according to Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), will be managed by Telcordia, a subsidiary of Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson which was accused of giving “pay-for-play” cash to Bill Clinton to escape sanctions in Iran while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.
Additionally, in 2016 US intelligence agencies found out that Telcordia was using a Chinese national to help write the phone record database, which was a direct violation of a federal requirement that only US citizens could work on the project due to national security concerns.
“These officials fear that if other countries gain access to the code, they could reap a counterintelligence bonanza, learning the targets of U.S. law enforcement and espionage investigations,” reported the Washington Post at the time.
It’s urgent for Team Telecom to conduct review before 4/7 transition of US Telecoms database to foreign owned co. Telcordia. Failure to complete smooth transition could leave consumers w/o wireless service, inhibit emer services comms & hinder criminal & natl sec investigations. pic.twitter.com/zxdCjOWtgK
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) March 30, 2018
Telcordia was then forced to rewrite the entire database, which tracks nearly every phone number in America, from scratch.
However, despite the scandal, the FCC under the Obama administration had no problem allowing Telcordia to become the next database manager, officially known as the Local Number Portability Administrator (LNPA).
“The LNPA is vital to the nation’s critical communications infrastructure, public safety and virtually all significant criminal and national security investigations,” Rep. Zeldin said, adding that no fallback plan exists if the transition fails. “The compressed timeline of this decision without a fallback plan and Telcordia’s contentious history provide serious grounds for concern.”
“That is why I am requesting an urgently needed Team Telecom review to assess the security risks of foreign ownership of the LNPA before the impending deadline on April 7, 2018.”
In 2016, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump pointed out how Ericsson paid Bill Clinton $750,000 for a 2011 speech while Hillary Clinton’s State Department was adding goods and services to a list that might be covered under expanded sanctions on Iran.
Ericsson denied any favors linked to the expensive speech by claiming its “significant investment” into Clinton’s speaking fee was due to the “perceived crowd pull, the location and an engagement that spanned two days.”
At the time, the Swedish firm was under US pressure for selling telecom equipment to several oppressive governments, including Iran.
“Some of these regimes used those technologies to monitor and control their own people,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Ohio. “In April 2012, the Obama administration issued an executive order imposing sanctions on telecom sales to Iran and Syria – but those sanctions did not cover Ericsson’s work in Iran.”
The Trump administration still has time to stop the Telcordia deal before it’s too late.