State Department limits use of Lenovo PCs

Concerns about Lenovo's Chinese government ties leads to U.S. ban on classified networks

The U.S. Department of State will not use Lenovo Group computers on a classified network because of ongoing concerns about the company's Chinese government ties, a U.S. congressmen has announced.

The State Department's decision comes after Representative Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, objected to the use of computers made by Lenovo in a classified network connecting U.S. embassies and consulates. In March, the State Department announced a $13 million purchase of 16,000 Lenovo computers and related equipment through government contractor CDW. Lenovo, a Chinese company incorporated in Hong Kong, moved its headquarters to the U.S. after its acquisition of IBM's PC business was completed last year.

About 900 of those PCs were slated to be used in the embassy network, said Wolf, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary. In a letter Wolf received Thursday, the State Department said it will use Lenovo computers only in unclassified settings.

"I was deeply troubled to learn that the new computers were purchased from a China-based company," Wolf said in a statement. “This decision would have had dire consequences for our national security, potentially jeopardizing our investment in a secure IT infrastructure. It is no secret that the United States is a principal target of Chinese intelligence services."

Last year, the U.S. Department of Treasury's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States conducted an extended review of Lenovo's purchase of IBM's PC business, but the U.S. government eventually approved the deal. Some lawmakers had questioned the deal, saying it posed a threat to U.S. national security.

In April, members of the U.S. government's U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Committee raised objections to Lenovo computers used in the classified network. Michael Wessel, a Democratic member of the commission, raised concerns because Lenovo is partly owned by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, an arm of the Chinese government, he said in a statement.

The State Department needs a policy on the use of technology in classified networks, he added. "This event should trigger a broader review of our procurement policies for all our classified networks and communications," Wessel said.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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