Federal agencies continue to buy Chinese drones despite Pentagon 'national security' threat warning

The Secret Service and FBI are latest to acquire DJI drones that Pentagon has repeatedly warned pose a threat to U.S. national security

Published: September 22, 2021 7:38am

Updated: September 22, 2021 8:15am

Federal law enforcement agencies including the Secret Service are reportedly purchasing surveillance drones from a Chinese firm deemed by the Pentagon a potential national security threat.

The drones are from Shenzen-based company DJI, which dominates the world market, according to a report from Axios.

In late July, the Secret Service purchased eight DJI drones and the FBI purchased 19 drones just a few days earlier. The Secret Service purchase came three days after the Defense Department released a statement warning that DJI products "pose potential threats to national security."

The drones require the user to download proprietary DJI software and use mapping databases that can potentially be monitored elsewhere. The Chinese company has repeatedly denied that their products are being used for surveillance and espionage, saying that all concerns to the contrary are unfounded.

In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security – which encapsulates the Secret Service – said that it believes that DJI was "providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government."

Several other federal departments, including Interior and Commerce, have also posed limitations around the use of DJI technology. 

Despite broad bipartisan support for cracking down on the federal purchase of Chinese-made technology, the process of actually doing so has been stalled by bureaucratic delays and issues with both the cost of and plan to replace the Chinese-made systems.

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