Several federal agencies under the Biden Administration have been purchasing surveillance drone technology from Chinese companies, even though the technology had previously been labeled a national security threat by the Department of Defense, according to Fox News.
Purchases have been made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Secret Service, with the drones being provided by the company DJI, which is based in Shenzhen. The purchase of eight drones by the Secret Service was made on July 26th; just three days earlier, Biden’s own Defense Department had labeled DJI a national security threat. The FBI bought 19 drones around the same time.
One of the conditions for doing business with DJI is that all potential customers must download proprietary software, and provide DJI’s mapping databases to users, even though this technology can be monitored remotely from China.
Concerns first arose about DJI back in 2017 under the Trump Administration, when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a statement declaring that it had “moderate confidence” that the company was “providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government.” As a result of these warnings, the Department of Interior (DOI) grounded all of its non-emergency surveillance drones in 2019.
There is an exception to the Pentagon’s current ban on Chinese drone products, if the agencies making the purchases are doing so for the purpose of studying the technology, so that they can determine possible methods for countering Chinese hacking. It has not yet been confirmed if this was the reason for the recent purchases by the FBI and Secret Service.