Congressman Matt Gaetz Calls on AG Barr to Ground All Government-Owned DJI Drones

May 5, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) yesterday called on Attorney General William Barr to ground all DJI drones owned and operated by U.S. government entities, local law enforcement, and state law enforcement, over national cybersecurity concerns that the drones may be providing data to the Chinese government.

 

In a letter to the Attorney General, Congressman Gaetz expressed concern that the drones “may exfiltrate sensitive law-enforcement data to China,” noting that local law enforcement agencies had neither the “technical expertise nor the cyber-forensic tools necessary to determine whether or not these UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) are transmitting sensitive data to the CCP regime.”

 

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security revealed that DJI (Dà-Jiāng Innovations), a Chinese technology company, is “likely providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to (the) Chinese government.” The Department further assessed that DJI has sought out and targeted local law enforcement agencies as product consumers, and that “China could provide DJI information to terrorist organizations…to coordinate attacks against U.S. critical infrastructure.” 

 

Following this report, the U.S. Army, the Department of the Interior, and other government entities suspended their use of DJI drones. However, local law enforcement agencies in twenty-two states and over forty municipalities recently received drones as a donation from DJI, and have been utilizing them despite the potentially severe national security implications.

 

“China is massively expanding a Trojan horse spying operation in our country and your local police department may be unknowingly helping them. The United States Army and the Department of Interior have banned their use of these DJI drones, citing vulnerability and potential value for other countries. The Department of Homeland Security wrote a scathing report that said that China specifically goes after local law enforcement. They did so even before the coronavirus so that they can get key information transmitted to the Chinese government. Then, our own Department of Homeland Security wrote that this is precisely the type of information we’re worried that China might sell to terrorists,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz.

 

Congressman Gaetz announced his letter last night on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” and highlighted specific concerns he had raised in the letter. Video of Congressman Gaetz’s appearance is available below. A copy of the letter sent to AG Barr may be found HERE or below.

 

CLICK TO WATCH VIDEO

 

 

 

LETTER TEXT

 

The Honorable William Barr

Attorney General of the United States

United States Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20530

 

The Honorable Jeffrey Rosen

Deputy Attorney General of the United States

United States Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20530

 

Dear Attorney General Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rosen:

 

We write to express our grave concerns about potential national security threats posed by Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) produced by Chinese company Da Jiang Innovations (DJI), and distributed by DJI to American states, localities, and law enforcement agencies.

 

Several departments and agencies of the federal government have already banned or ceased to use DJI products. The Army banned their purchase and use in 2017. The Department of the Interior retired their DJI UAS fleet in 2019. The Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act banned their purchase and use across the entire United States military.

 

The reason for these bans has been national security, grounded in well-established assessments that DJI UAS (drones) may transmit sensitive information to China. A 2017 report from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Los Angeles office) stated that DJI drones are “Likely providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to [the] Chinese government.” That same report states that “SIP Los Angeles further assesses with high confidence the company is selectively targeting government and privately-owned entities within these sectors [infrastructure and law enforcement] to expand its ability to collect and exploit sensitive U.S. data.”

 

The DJI website mentions the “45 police, fire and public safety organizations in 22 states” to which they have donated drones. In Florida, DJI donated at least two drones to the Daytona Beach Police Department, under the guise of helping with the problems caused by the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. These “donations” are deeply troubling to us.

 

We have the following questions:

-What authorities do you have to limit or end the use of DJI UAS in the United States?

-When will you begin taking action to use these authorities?

 

Local police departments that have received these UAS from DJI, such as the Daytona Beach Police Department (which was contacted prior to sending this letter), have neither the technical expertise nor the cyber-forensic tools necessary to determine whether or not these UAS are transmitting sensitive data to the CCP regime. Furthermore, because these UAS may be connected to police computers, it seems possible that they may exfiltrate sensitive law-enforcement data to China. We hope that your swift action will keep this dangerous scenario from coming to pass.

 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

Matt Gaetz

Member of Congress

 

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