Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have admitted in sworn testimony to the government purchase of drones manufactured in China.
The Washington Examiner reports that the admission was made by two officials who testified before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Thursday. Brad Wiegmann, deputy assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) National Security Division, admitted that the FBI is purchasing and putting to use drones that have been manufactured by Shenzhen DJI Sciences and Technologies (DJI).
Wiegmann was facing questions from Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who said that he was “very concerned about reports of the purchase by DHS and DOJ law enforcement of Chinese drones and the national security risks that this poses.” Portman further noted that “DJI has servers in China. They have support from the Chinese government. The Chinese state security services is one of their customers.”
When he asked Wiegmann if the FBI had been purchasing or utilizing such drones, Wiegmann simply responded with “We do.”
Samantha Vinograd, the acting assistant secretary for DHS’s counterterrorism, threat prevention, and law enforcement policy, also admitted to the department purchasing and using such drones in official capacities, although she initially tried to avoid answering the question.
“DHS has prohibited the purchase of foreign-made drones … absent waivers in very specific circumstances,” Vinograd replied to the same question. “With specific waivers, DHS can purchase certain foreign-made aircraft. … With certain waivers, we are purchasing certain foreign-made aircraft.”
DJI, which is backed by the Chinese government, is recognized by the United States government as a “Chinese Military Industrial Complex” company. However, the most recently-approved National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House of Representatives on the same day, did not include a ban on Chinese-made drones being utilized by the American government, despite some Republicans’ efforts to include such a provision.
According to the Financial Times, DJI “has hired two lobbying firms — Squire Patton Boggs and the Vogel Group — to persuade members of Congress not to back the American Security Drone Act,” the measure which would ultimately ban Chinese-made drones from government use in the U.S. The provision was championed by Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, and Congressman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“This is just the latest example of how the CCP uses the swamp against us,” Gallagher said in a statement to the media. “There is a bipartisan recognition that Congress needs to mitigate threats posed by DJI drones, but these efforts have been undermined by lobbyists who would rather sell out the country than lose a lucrative contract.”
“The threats posed by DJI drones are clear and well-documented, no matter how much the CCP spends on the swamp,” Gallagher continued, “and we will continue to work to make sure these devices get nowhere near the federal government.”