FBI and DHS testify on Apple spy chip story (transcript)

Philip Elmer-DeWitt

From C-Span’s transcript of today’s Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee hearings:

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.): Bloomberg I think has done an excellent job on an investigative report on the Supermicro the implantation of small little microchips into these boards. I know Apple is denying it. Follow-up report seems like it is pretty sound reporting. Without getting into the specifics of that, unless you want to speak to if it is true or not, what went through my mind immediately is that how come I’m finding out through Bloomberg in terms of contact from the federal government? …

FBI Director Christopher Wray: Well I would say to the newspaper article, or I mean the magazine article, I would say be careful what you read. Especially in this context…

Johnson: So by the way if this is not accurate [lifts up Bloomberg story] I would like to have the FBI or somebody come out and say it’s not. Because we also don’t want false information out there as well. Does that make sense? What prevents us from doing that?

Wray: Well I can’t speak for other agencies. On our end, we have to be very careful. We have a very specific policy that applies to us as law enforcement agencies to neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation. I do want to be careful that my comment not be construed as inferring or implying, I should say, that there is an investigation. We take very seriously our obligation to notify victims when they’ve been targeted.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielson: Yes, sir, and we have adopted a shine the light approach… With respect to the article, we at DHS do not have any evidence that supports the article. We have no reason to doubt what the companies have said. We continue to look into it. What I can tell you though is it is a very real and emerging threat that we are very concerned about. So we are working very closely with the private sector, within our federal family, and certainly to put our own house in order to make sure that we are locking down every step of that supply chain.

My take: Nielson and Wray were both happy to stoke cyber fears in their prepared remarks. But when questioned about the Bloomberg story, they didn’t agree with the Senator’s assessment that Bloomberg did an excellent job.

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