Ex-intelligence officials claim antitrust law could harm the US in the tech race in China


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Twelve former senior US security officials are calling on Congress to pause on a package of antitrust laws to consider how disbanding tech companies could harm the US from competing with China, according to a letter received from Axios.

The big picture: Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and former National Intelligence Agency director Dan Coats argue that imposing strict restrictions solely on US giants will pave the way for a China-dominated technology landscape – reflecting the position of big tech companies.

What you say: In an effort to “undermine US influence” and become “the world’s leading innovator,” the Chinese government has a policy of “creating and supporting national champion technology companies,” the former officials wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and minority leader Kevin McCarthy.

  • Antitrust laws to break up US tech giants – without targeting Chinese companies like Huawei, Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba – could hinder innovations that are “critical to maintaining America’s technological edge,” they argue.
  • The former officials praised the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act – a comprehensive, $ 200 billion China-focused package that was passed overwhelmingly by the Senate in June – but urged Congress to assess the impact of the House of Representatives antitrust proposals to consider national security before proceeding.
  • Since leaving the civil service, several signatories to the letter have joined the boards of organizations that receive grants or work for technology companies such as Google and Amazon.

The other side: “These arguments are the same arguments Facebook and Google have been using for a very long time to avoid regulation,” said Rep. David Cicilline (DR.I.), chairman of the House Judiciary’s Antitrust Subcommittee, to Axios. “And I actually think the evidence is just the opposite.”

  • Cicilline – who is aiming for a House vote this fall – argues that competition is driving innovation and that the lack of competition in the digital market has resulted in a “very dangerous” decline in innovation that poses a threat to national security in its own right .
  • A spokesman for Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), The top Republican on the subcommittee, told Axios, “Let’s be clear: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are violating US competition by engaging in anti-competitive practices . “

Between the lines: The letter does not recognize China’s own crackdown on big tech, which has accelerated in recent months.

  • For example, the Financial Times reported this week that Chinese regulators are trying to disband the payment app Alipay – Beijing’s latest volley against Jack Ma’s Ant Group, whose record-breaking IPO was sunk by Xi Jinping last year.

The letter was signed by:

  • Robert Cardillo, former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
  • Dan Coats, former director of the National Intelligence Service
  • Admiral James Foggo III, former US Navy Europe-Africa Commander
  • Sue Gordon, former deputy director of the National Intelligence Service
  • Rick Ledgett Jr., former NSA deputy director
  • Michael Morell, former acting CIA director
  • John Negroponte, former director of the National Intelligence Service and assistant secretary of state
  • Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director
  • Vice Admiral Jan Tighe, former director of naval intelligence and commander of the Tenth Fleet
  • Frances Townsend, former White House homeland security adviser
  • Dr. Michael Vickers, former secretary of state for intelligence
  • Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr., former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Full text of the letter.

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