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US State Dept pulls Lenovo PCs

Spy fears prompt disconnections from secure networks

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The US State Department has yanked computers made by China's Lenovo from networks that provide access to information vital to national security, it has emerged. The move follows fears the kit could be used by China to spy on the US.

The department ordered 16,000 PCs from Lenovo earlier this year. Some 900 of these machines were due to be connected to secure networks, Republican Congressman Frank Wolf revealed this week.

But after Congress' US-China Economic and Security Review Commission expressed concerns that the equipment could be used for espionage - worries Wolf communicated to the US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice - the State Department removed any Lenovo-made PCs from networks that could be used to access classified data.

"The State Department... has now taken the appropriate steps to ensure that classified information is not compromised by the purchase of these new computers," Wolf told the House appropriations subcommittee yesterday. "It has identified the machines that have already been installed and will remove them [and] it is making changes to ensure that its procurement process keeps up with the changes of ownership of IT companies."

For its part, Lenovo said the PCs had all been manufactured in North Carolina and Mexico in factories acquired through its purchase of IBM in 2005.

"We know that our computers present no security risk to the US government because we do not install back-doors or surveillance tools in our computers," a company spokeswoman told the AFX newsagency.

In January 2005, the US Treasury Department was asked to investigate the $1.25bn sale of IBM's PC division to Lenovo because of its potential national security fears voiced by the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. In March that year, the Treasury Department permitted the sale to go ahead. ®

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