Huawei USA security chief suggests the company could be open to 'mitigation measures' to address US national security concerns

Key Points
  • Andy Purdy, chief security officer at Huawei USA, says the Chinese telecom giant may be open to taking steps to address U.S. national security concerns.
  • While saying he cannot prejudge any possible conditions, Purdy says he would be "astounded if we weren't open to those kinds of risk mitigation measures."
Huawei's US chief security officer makes the case for its lawsuit

The chief security officer at Huawei Technologies USA signaled on CNBC on Wednesday that the Chinese telecom giant might be open to taking steps to address U.S. national security concerns.

"In different countries in the world, we negotiate with respective governments on what kind of assurance framework they need," Huawei's Andy Purdy told "Squawk Box." Some measures, he said, might include requirements around selling to government or to critical infrastructure projects. While saying he cannot prejudge any possible conditions, Purdy said he would be "astounded if we weren't open to those kinds of risk mitigation measures."

Purdy's appearance, along with Huawei outside counsel Glen Nager of Jones Day, comes as the China-based company looks to expedite its March lawsuit against the U.S. government. Huawei, which alleges that a law banning U.S. government agencies from buying its equipment is unconstitutional, is seeking a summary judgment in hopes of avoiding a full-blown trial.

Wednesday's comments from Purdy mirror ones he made about two weeks ago, in which he said a risk-mitigation process for Huawei equipment, like those used in Europe, could have been simple.

The new Huawei filing stems from President Donald Trump's signing last year of a new U.S. defense act that strengthens the Committee on Foreign Investment. However, with the U.S. most recently stepping up pressure against Huawei — as part of trade and technology tensions with China — Trump earlier this month effectively blacklisted Huawei from doing business in the U.S.

Purdy, who formerly served as a top-ranking cybersecurity official for Homeland Security, said U.S. officials have not been "willing to talk" to Huawei. "The geopolitical context between the U.S. and China is why we're in this situation," he said.

Nager said the Trump administration needs to "ramp down the rhetoric," adding that "the U.S. is worried more about the country China than the company Huawei."

Responding to a question about this weekend's Wall Street Journal report with the headline "Huawei's Yearslong Rise Is Littered With Accusations of Theft and Dubious Ethics," Purdy told CNBC, "I don't forgive acts that have happened in the past."

"Despite those, our allies have decided to push back on tremendous pressure from the U.S. government because they believe the national security threats can be addressed," he added.

Huawei has maintained that it adheres to intellectual property rights, which along with national security is at the heart of the U.S. concerns about the company and about business practices in China.

Reacting to Purdy's comments, Marc Short, chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence told CNBC that Huawei is "more or less a subsidiary of China" and its communist government.

Short added, in a later "Squawk Box" interview, that Huawei's alleged cooperation with Iran only adds to its issues. "They need to stop those actions, stop cooperating with Iran at this time if they actually want to work with the U.S."

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Key Points
  • Huawei U.S. chief security officer Andy Purdy and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff describe the decade-long disconnect between the U.S. and the Chinese telecom giant.
  • President Trump on Wednesday targeted Huawei with a national emergency declaration and executive order.
  • The U.S. has insisted the company and its equipment are pervasively unsafe.