(Homeland Press News) A bipartisan bill to help mitigate security risks of potential foreign government espionage by collecting beneficial ownership information prior to the federal government leasing buildings for high-security purposes was recently introduced by U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) and Peter King (R-NY).
The bill, titled the Secure Government Buildings from Espionage Act of 2017, stems from a January 2017 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which found at least 20 instances of the General Services Administration (GSA) leasing high-security buildings for government agencies that were owned by foreign entities. Included in GAO’s findings were six buildings used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as field offices and three Drug Enforcement Administration field offices owned by companies located in Canada, China, Israel, Japan, and South Korea.
GAO’s report also noted that the GSA did not have ownership information regarding 1,406 high-security leases as of March 2016. Without knowing key ownership information, the congressmen said in a release, the GSA may not be aware of the source of fund to finance the building and cannot track potential money laundering.
To address issues related to leasing information, the bill would require that all beneficial ownership information is collected as part of GSA’s leasing process, which includes knowing if a foreign owner holds a stake in a particular property.
“By improving the GSA’s record keeping of the owners of the buildings in which they lease high-security space, we will help prevent potential lapses in security and protect government agencies from potential data breaches or incidences of espionage,” Lynch said. “…It is critical to our national security that we have beneficial ownership information for buildings in which sensitive government information is kept.”