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D.C. Metro urged to take ‘absolute caution’ to quell hacking fears raised by Chinese railcars

May 9, 2019

Rep. Jamie Raskin, Maryland Democrat, raised concerns in an interview aired Thursday about foreign hackers potentially compromising the public transit system in Washington, D.C.

Appearing on The Hill’s “Rising,” Mr. Raskin briefly touched on bipartisan efforts being made by area lawmakers to keep a Chinese transportation company from building Metro’s future fleet of next-generation railcars.

“We have hundreds of millions of visitors come through every decade to the capital city. It belongs to all of America and the representatives from people from all over the country come here,” said Mr. Raskin.

“We just want to make sure that we don’t wake up one day and realize we’ve made a bad mistake. We’ve got to proceed with absolute caution in terms of who’s got access and control over the underground infrastructure and the cyber infrastructure of our region,” the congressman continued.

Mr. Raskin is among a handful members of the House and Senate representing the capital region who sent letters earlier this year to Paul Wiedefeld, Metro’s general manager, after The Washington Post first reported that the state-owned China Railway Rolling Stock Corp. planned to bid on the contract to build the transit agency’s future fleet of railcars.

“In the transportation sector, there has been increased interest from some of these same foreign governments, acting through state-owned intermediaries, to participate in state and local procurements, including those to manufacture and assemble railcars for transit agencies around the country,” Mr. Raskin wrote in February alongside Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C. and a handful of Democrats representing Maryland and Virginia.

“While other cities have welcomed this investment, we have serious concerns about similar activity in the National Capital Region, particularly when it could involve foreign governments that have explicitly sought to undermine our country’s economic competitiveness and national security,” they wrote.

Metro is expected to purchase at least 256 of the 8000-series cars equipped with modern technologies including automatic train and networks controls, high-definition security cameras, digital screens and “smart doors,” the agency announced last year.

Metro did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the congressman’s latest comments.

“Metro continues to share the concerns expressed by Congress regarding cybersecurity, and we have taken the steps available within our control to address the matter,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel previously told The Washington Times in response to the letter signed by Mr. Raskin.

“As we have said consistently, the issues raised by Congress cannot be addressed through Metro’s procurement process alone, and we urge Congress to consider passing or amending federal law or regulations to address these concerns,” Mr. Stessel added. “Metro stands ready to fully assist Congress in this effort.”

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