Boehnke introduces duo of bills to defend against security risks posed by Chinese Communist Party

Legislation from Tri-Cities lawmaker and cyber-security expert would ban use of Chinese-made drones, prohibit CCP-related purchases of land in Washington

Today Sen. Matt Boehnke announced the introduction of two bills that he says are critical to protecting Washingtonians from the threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to spy on Americans and acquire access to land and vital resources within Washington.

Boehnke, R-Kennewick, is a member of the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee and the Legislature’s leading expert on cybersecurity, ransomware and malicious violations of data privacy.

“For years there have been questions about how much our local and state governments should focus on buying American – but primarily for economic reasons,” said Boehnke. “What the pandemic and the disruptions in the supply chain have proved is that the United States is reliant on Chinese-made technology to a disturbing degree. Given the increasingly hostile and brazen disregard for international norms displayed by the People’s Republic of China, the continued use of equipment produced by companies aligned with the CCP represents a serious national security threat that must be addressed.”

Senate Bill 5755 would address this concern, in part, by prohibiting any state- or local-government agency from purchasing, acquiring, or otherwise using an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system produced by a manufacturer aligned with hostile foreign actors, pursuant to section 889 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019.

Under section 889 of the act, the federal government is banned from purchasing equipment from certain Chinese vendors due to security concerns, including Huawei and ZTE, as well as any surveillance equipment for the purposes of national security from Dahua Technology, Hytera, and Hikvision.

Boehnke’s bill, which has bipartisan sponsorship, would apply a similar standard to state and local governments, including any law enforcement agency.

“After the nation watched a Chinese spy balloon traverse the entire continental United States, it is crystal clear to me that we should no longer allow drones – probably loaded with CCP spyware – to patrol our skies, especially given the high number of sensitive military, aerospace and technology sites located here in Washington,” said Boehnke. “This bill would prohibit the use of these drones, which are tainted by their ties to the most notorious CCP-linked businesses.”

Boehnke’s second bill, Senate Bill 5754, is modeled after federal legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Dan Newhouse, who serves Washington’s 4th Congressional District. Starting this August, it would prohibit the purchase of public or private agricultural land in Washington by any foreign national, nonresident alien, foreign business, agent, or trustee associated with the PRC government.

“Congressman Newhouse has shown great leadership and courage in leading this fight at the federal level,” said Boehnke, who spoke with Newhouse about his legislation and the need for a similar state-level bill during the congressman’s recent visit to the state capitol earlier this month. “We must take the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party seriously. The CCP leaders have made it clear that they seek to undermine American security, economic well-being and democracy itself. I agree with Representative Newhouse that we must respond to this threat with smart policies that will protect our food supply chain and agricultural community.

“The CCP is not content being a competitor; its every action makes it abundantly apparent that they are determined to view us as an adversary, and China intends to win.

“This bill, along with the great work that Representative Newhouse is doing in the other Washington, is about denying the CCP a further foothold within our own borders and a dominance over our people and resources.”

Since 2015, Boehnke has served as the director and lead professor of the cybersecurity division at Columbia Basin College in Pasco. He also owns a cybersecurity consulting business and has more than 32 years of experience in data privacy and cyber security, most of that in the military, working with classified data systems.