Huawei files lawsuit disputing FCC 'security threat' designation

The company alleges the 2020 order was "arbitrary" and "capricious."

Matthew Childs / reuters

According to The Wall Street Journal, Huawei has filed a lawsuit to challenge a decision the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made last year when it designated the company as a national security threat. The legal challenge comes as the Chinese manufacturer attempts to claw back at least some of the restrictions President Trump imposed on the company during his time in office.

In the suit filed on Monday, the company alleges the FCC exceeded its authority when it made the decision, claiming it was "arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion, and not supported by substantial evidence." In addition to labeling Huawei as a national security threat, the order prevents US operators from accessing the agency's Universal Service Fund to buy networking equipment from Huawei. At the time, former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said an "overwhelming weight of evidence" informed the order.

"Last year the FCC issued a final designation identifying Huawei as a national security threat based on a substantial body of evidence developed by the FCC and numerous US national security agencies. We will continue to defend that decision," a spokesperson for the agency told The Wall Street Journal.

During President Trump's four years in office, his administration made repeated claims the Chinese government could use Huawei's networking equipment to spy on the US and its allies but ultimately offered little proof that was actually the case. The closest we have to compelling evidence of Huawei supporting Bejing's spying efforts came last year when The Washington Post published a report that said the company had tested — but never deployed — a facial recognition system that would have allowed Chinese authorities to identify minority Uyghur individuals.

Mere hours after Huawei filed the lawsuit, its founder, Ren Zhengfei, told journalists he would welcome the chance to talk to President Biden on the phone. "We still hope to be able to buy a lot of US components, parts and machinery so that US companies can also develop with the Chinese economy," he said.

The Biden administration hasn't said much about its plans related to Huawei. "We can't have the Chinese or really anyone having a backdoor into our network and compromising in any way our national or economic security," Gina Raimondo, the president's nominee for commerce secretary, told lawmakers at her January confirmation hearing. But when she was asked about Huawei specifically, she didn't say whether the Commerce Department would keep the company blacklisted.

What is clear is that all of the US sanctions on Huawei have affected the company. When Huawei sold its budget Honor brand in November, it said it did so to ensure the company’s survival in the face of US sanctions. It blamed those same sanctions for the fact the Mate 40 features its final high-end Kirin processor.

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