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Washington, D.C. – At a Senate Intelligence hearing today on Gina Haspel’s nomination to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) raised the issue of China’s growing influence and telecommunications threats to U.S. national security interests.
 
Last week, Rubio appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight to discuss legislation he is introducing that will correct an economic relationship with China. Rubio recently welcomed a ban on the sale of certain Chinese telecommunications on U.S. military installations. In February, Rubio introduced legislation that would prohibit U.S. government use of Chinese telecommunications equipment and/or services from Huawei, ZTE or any subsidiaries or affiliates.
 
A video of the exchange is available here. A rough transcript of the exchange is below:
 
Rubio: When I joined this committee seven years ago, I knew as much about the CIA as the average American. Obviously I know a lot know more these days and much of it can’t be shared. There’s two things that I can. The first is that it is very easy to sit back and criticize the work of the agency with the benefit of hindsight. And the second is that the agency is made up of some of the smartest, most talented professionals that I have ever encountered in any field in my time in public service or beyond. These are men and women that could be making a lot of money in the private sector. But instead they've chosen to serve our country, many in the shadows, many at the risk of their own lives, all to keep us safe. By the way, they sacrifice money, time with their family, this  normal life in many cases in defense of the freedoms, including the freedoms of the protesters who often smear them and the activists who often slander them.
 
Ms. Haspel, you embody everything that I respect and admire about the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency and I support you not just because of your qualifications, but because I want a young CIA trainee or case officer, I want today's operational officers, I want today's station chiefs, I want today's -- all of these professionals to know that they, too, can one day be sitting where you are sitting today and have the opportunity to lead this agency. And I would ask if someone like you, with your history, with your record of service and sacrifice and excellence, if someone like you cannot be confirmed to head this agency, then who can? And if someone like you is smeared in this process, what message are we sending to the young men and women who today are serving our country in the same roles in which you have served our country over the last 30 years. And I thought it was important for that to be part of the record today because as much as anything else, this hearing is not just about your nomination for me. It is also about the men and women who serve us which I said at the outset you embody the best of the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency.
 
On a policy front, I want to ask you about U.S.-China relations. For decades American foreign policy towards China has been rooted on the belief that as they prospered economically, they would embrace democracy, they would embrace the global rule of law. That consensus, I think by all accounts, has been catastrophically wrong. Today China is undertaking a comprehensive effort to supplant the United States and to undermine us, and they've benefitted from the greatest transfer of wealth in history through the theft and the forced transfer of intellectual property. They use unfair trade and other practices to undermine our industrial and technical base. They gather and exploit data at an unrivaled scale. They’re building the most capable and well-funded military in the world - second to ours. So my question first and foremost is: is the agency, as it stands today, equipped and structured to meet this multi-faceted challenge?
 
Haspel: Senator, thank you for that question. One of the first things Mike Pompeo and I looked at when I returned to the agency from overseas in early 2017 is how we're doing on the hard targets. That's what you're talking about: China, Iran, Russia, North Korea. Of course, our investment in counter-terrorism has to be very significant. We have to be vigilant and we can't take our eyes off that ball. But there are more strategic threats and you talked about one of them: China. China's rise as a global power. CIA has a very important role in monitoring China's rise as the global power. China's efforts to diminish U.S. influence not only in the pacific, but all around the world. China's unfair trade practices, and China's overt and illicit efforts to steal U.S.. technology and knowhow and intellectual property. We, with the support of this committee, are raising our investment on each of these hard targets. We have incredible expertise on China at the agency. It is a very strong team. I am very proud of our analysts. It is a subject that a week doesn't go by that either the president asks for an expert briefing or Secretary Mattis asks for someone to come over and brief him on China issues. We have a good program, but your more general point is that we have to do more and we have to invest more on each of these hard targets.
 
Rubio: I recently introduced legislation with Senator Cotton that would block the U.S government from buying or leasing telecommunication from Huawel or ZTE corporation. Beyond government purchase, I would ask you just with the citizens that are watching, if you were just an everyday American or even someone involved in any sort of sensitive work, would you purchase a Huawei phone or connect your phone or computer to a Huawei or ZTE network?
 
Haspel: Well, Senator, as I mentioned I don't even have a social media account, but I wouldn't use Huawei products.