Bipartisan RESTRICT Act would comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries
U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) today joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues, led by Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and John Thune (R-SD), Ranking Member of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband, in introducing the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act. The legislation would comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries by better empowering the Department of Commerce—in conjunction with intelligence, law enforcement, and financial officials—to review, prevent, and mitigate information communications and technology transactions that pose undue risk to our national security.
At a press conference for the bill’s unveiling today, Senator Romney said: When you see Senator Thune and Senator Warner come together, and this many [senators] from both sides of the aisle come together on a major piece of legislation—we’re not talking about a post office being named or a highway being named—we are talking about a major piece of competitive and foreign policy legislation. When we come together, it says that Congress has recognized that the Chinese Communist Party is not our dear friend. Any question about what China intends to do and what authoritarians intend to do, is able to be seen by their treatment of the people in Hong Kong, the Uyghur people in China. You can see what authoritarians want to do about watching what Russia is doing in Ukraine. We have to recognize that we face geopolitical adversaries that are serious and threaten our security, our prosperity, and even the peace and freedom that we enjoy. This piece of legislation is designed to help protect Americans and protect America and our friends. There are a lot of us that are concerned about privacy and we say, we don’t want the government to know everything we are doing—we want to protect our personal privacy. Well, one thing that is a lot worse than having our government infringe on our privacy is having the Chinese Communist Party infringe on our privacy and be able to track us and follow us. Whether it is with social media or other technologies—communication technologies or the hardware that they devise over the coming years—we have to make sure we have the resources in place and the authorities in place to stop those things before they endanger us. I’m really proud to support this legislation and join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do something which is necessary, overdue, and critical to get passed as soon as possible.
Upon introduction of the legislation, Senator Romney said, “The Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a multi-generational, multi-faceted, and systematic campaign to replace the United States as the world’s superpower. One tool at its disposal—the ability to force social media companies headquartered in China, like TikTok’s parent company, to hand over the data it collects on users. Our adversaries—countries like China, Russia, Iran—are increasingly using technology products to spy on Americans and discover vulnerabilities in our communications infrastructure, which can then be exploited. The United States must take stronger action to safeguard our national security against the threat technology products pose and this legislation is a strong step in that direction.”
“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 Senator 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.”
“Congress needs to stop taking a piecemeal approach when it comes to technology from adversarial nations that pose national security risks,” said Senator 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.”
The RESTRICT Act establishes a risk-based process, tailored to the rapidly changing technology and threat environment, by directing the Department of Commerce to identify and mitigate foreign threats to information and communications technology products and services.
The legislation is also co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).
The Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (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, integral to telecommunications products, or pertaining 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 take up consideration of concerning activity identified by other government entities;
- Educate the public and business community about the threat by requiring the Secretary of Commerce to coordinate with the Director of National Intelligence to provide declassified information on how transactions denied or otherwise mitigated posed undue or unacceptable risk.
A two-page summary of the bill is available here. A copy of the bill text is available here.