It's a problem for U.S. retailers when Communist China makes fake designer handbags and illegal copies of our music CDs, but it's a much bigger problem when the fakes are chips installed in our military weapons. The American people are starting to discover that counterfeit computer components bought from the Chinese are used in our warplanes, ships and communication networks.
These tiny electronic circuits used in computers can cause breakdowns or malfunctions. Bloomberg Business Week reported that a confidential Pentagon program issued an alert as long ago as 2005 that fake microchips were causing military equipment malfunctions.
Other shipments were discovered to be counterfeit in time to be cancelled. Four counterfeit chips were discovered in the flight computer of one of our F-15 fighter jets at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.
While it is difficult to determine if fake chips caused particular plane or helicopter crashes, we know that we are having field failures in almost every weapon system. Informed military observers believe that at least 15 percent of the spare and replacement chips the Pentagon buys are counterfeits.
Another danger from fake Chinese chips is that they facilitate foreign espionage. The head of cyber security in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FBI have both admitted that these routers can allow the Chinese to gain access to U.S. secure systems.
These dangers come from the routing trail of the router chips. After the U.S. ships our scrap computers to China, scavengers working in littered streets sand off the dates and other identification from cast-off circuit boards. Then they put a new coating on the chips, often re-label them as military, sell them in bazaars to never-inspected, kitchen-table brokers in the U.S. and the Pentagon buys them because they are cheap or because federal affirmative-action policies require them to favor suppliers claiming to be "disadvantaged."
The U.S. has seized more than 400 fake routers. Nobody knows how many more Chinese counterfeits have been installed in U.S. equipment.
The threat from Chinese counterfeits is really not news to those in the know. It has been known for so many years that it has acquired a nickname: "hardware Trojans," taken from the ancient Greek myth about how the Greeks defeated Troy with a Trojan horse, a wooden horse that secretly contained Greek troops.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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