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Thune, Warner Introduce Bill to Tackle National Security Threats from Foreign Technologies

Senators’ bipartisan legislation would address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries

March 7, 2023

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, and Mark Warner (D-Va.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, today introduced the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act. The bipartisan legislation would establish a risk-based process, tailored to the rapidly changing technology and threat environment, by directing the U.S. Department of Commerce to identify and mitigate foreign threats to information and communications technology products and services.

“Congress needs to stop taking a piecemeal approach when it comes to technology from adversarial nations that pose national security risks,” said Thune. “Our country needs a process in place to address these risks, which is why I’m pleased to work with Senator Warner to establish a holistic, methodical approach to address the threats posed by technology platforms – like TikTok – from foreign adversaries. This bipartisan legislation would take a necessary step to ensure consumers’ information and our communications technology infrastructure is secure.”

“Today, the threat that everyone is talking about is TikTok, and how it could enable surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party, or facilitate the spread of malign influence campaigns in the U.S. Before TikTok, however, it was Huawei and ZTE, which threatened our nation’s telecommunications networks. And before that, it was Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, which threatened the security of government and corporate devices,” said Warner. “We need a comprehensive, risk-based approach that proactively tackles sources of potentially dangerous technology before they gain a foothold in America, so we aren’t playing Whac-A-Mole and scrambling to catch up once they’re already ubiquitous.”

The legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

The RESTRICT Act would:

  • Require the secretary of commerce to establish procedures to identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, and mitigate transactions involving information and communications technology products in which any foreign adversary has any interest and poses undue or unacceptable risk to national security;
  • Prioritize evaluation of information communications and technology products used in critical infrastructure that is integral to telecommunications products or pertains to a range of defined emerging, foundational, and disruptive technologies with serious national security implications;
  • Ensure comprehensive actions to address risks of untrusted foreign information communications and technology products by requiring the secretary to consider concerning activity identified by other government entities;
  • Educate the public and business community about the threat by requiring the secretary to coordinate with the director of national intelligence to provide declassified information on how transactions denied or otherwise mitigated posed undue or unacceptable risk.

Additional background information on the bill can be found here.  

Thune’s remarks below:

“It is widely acknowledged that TikTok is a threat to our national security, which is why Congress took steps last year to ban the platform on government devices. And before TikTok, as Mark pointed out, Congress had to take steps remove Huawei and ZTE from our telecommunications networks. In my view, we do need an approach that does away with this Whac-a-Mole with this particular technology and with adversarial nations and come up with a more systemic process in which to examine these risks and to act on them.


“I've long been concerned about how every social media company uses the data it collects from users, and I've introduced a number of bipartisan pieces of legislation to bring more transparency to big tech. But I'm particularly concerned about TikTok's connections to the Chinese Communist Party, which repeatedly, repeatedly spies on American citizens.


“It was reported last year that China-based employees of Bytedance have repeatedly accessed non-public data about users in the U.S., despite TikTok saying to the contrary, and as Senator Warner pointed out, both the Trump and the Biden administrations recognized the need for a robust process in place to evaluate the threats that are posed by foreign technology.


“This legislation builds on those efforts by establishing a comprehensive process within the Department of Commerce to mitigate, and which ultimately could lead, I would add, to banning, platforms like TikTok.


“The Chinese Communist Party has proven over the last few years that it is willing to lie about just about everything. That likely won't end with TikTok, which is why it's important to establish a holistic and methodical approach to the challenges that are posed by technology from foreign adversaries.


“It's safe to assume that if the CCP is willing to lie about its spy balloon and cover up the origins of the worst pandemic in 100 years, they'll lie about using TikTok to spy on American citizens.


“It's high time we addressed this issue. I think this legislation goes about it in the right way, and it deals with some of the attacks that have been made in the past, constitutionally, about how you approach specific or individual companies.


“But I'm pleased to be working with my colleagues on this, and I hope that this is one of those issues that we can work in a bipartisan way to solve, to get something on the president's desk, and start to attack this problem.”