tuesday, 21 may of 2019

The president of the United States Imposes Government Control on the Security of Information Technologies and Communications of Interest to Foreign Adversaries

Ericson M. Scorsim

On May 15, the President of the United States issued the Executive Order on Securing the Information and Communications Technology. The decision was grounded on the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, National Emergencies Act, and the United States Code. According to the justification of the Executive Order, foreign adversaries are increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology and services, which store and communicate vast amounts of sensitive information, facilitate the digital economy, and support critical infrastructure and vital emergency services. Foreign adversary means any foreign government or foreign non-government person engaged in a long‑term pattern or serious instances of conduct significantly adverse to the national security of the United States or security and safety of United States persons. There are risks of malicious actions, including industrial espionage against the United States and its people There are threats caused by foreign adversaries to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. Hence, the Executive Order forbids any acquisition, importation, transfer, installation, dealing in, or use of any information and communications technology or service (transaction) by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, where the transaction involves any property in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest, from the date that this order is issued.

The presidential act has the purpose to ensure the control by the North American government of commercial transactions that involve information and communications technology or services designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied, by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of a foreign adversary; transactions that pose an undue risk of sabotage to or subversion of the design, integrity, manufacturing, production, distribution, installation, operation, or maintenance of information and communications technology or services in the United States; transactions that pose an undue risk of catastrophic effects on the security or resiliency of United States critical infrastructure or the digital economy of the United States; or otherwise poses an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the security and safety of its citizens.

The presidential act grants powers to the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with other authorities (the Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the United States Trade Representative, the Director of National Intelligence, the Administrator of General Services, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission) to design or negotiate measures to mitigate concerns related to the risks described in the Executive Order. Such measures may serve as a precondition to the approval of a transaction or of a class of transactions that would otherwise be prohibited pursuant to the Executive Order. The Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with other authorities, is authorized to take such actions to cease the transactions prohibited by the Executive Order, adopting the appropriate rules and regulations.  The Secretary, in consultation with the other federal authorities, is authorized to submit a final report to the Congress on control of such activities. The Director of National Intelligence shall continue to assess threats to the United States and its people from information and communications technology or services designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of a foreign adversary.   The Secretary of Homeland Security shall continue to assess and identify entities, hardware, software, and services that present vulnerabilities to the United States and that pose the greatest potential consequences to the national security of the United States.

The Executive Order does not mention any specific countries or companies. However, it is known that the Trump administration is targeting the Chinese company Huawei. This measure is being adopted in the context of the trade war between the United States and China. The dispute is for the market that supplies equipment for telecommunications networks and the 5G market. The United States government wants to bar the Chinese company Huawei and its partners from purchasing American components and technologies without prior government approval. So the US authorities will prepare a list of companies and products deemed harmful to the interests of the United States, as they are promoted by foreign adversaries. According to information published by Reuters, Huawei is not able to manufacture servers for telecommunications networks, relying on third-party products such as the ones from American suppliers. However, Huawei is independent when it comes to the mobile phone market, as it owns all the components of these products (chips and software). The Chinese company is seeking to develop high-end technology to reduce its dependency on imported components. 

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t*Ericson M. Scorsim is lawyer and legal consultant in Communications Law. PhD from Universidade de São Paulo. Founder of the Law firm Meister Scorsim Advocacia. Author of the ebook Themes of Communications Law in the Case Law of the Brazilian Supreme Court.

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