The $1.95 billion sale of New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel to a chinese insurance company has the U.S. government examining the deal as a potential security risk. Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group’s terms of the sale allow for “a major renovation” that has officials in Washington concerned about potential threats of eavesdropping and tech espionage, given the government’s relationship with the property.
The Waldorf is where the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations lives, and the hotel regularly plays host to the president and various U.S. diplomats during the annual General Assembly. What better way to cover up the installation of surveillance devices than with a major renovation?
“We are currently in the process of reviewing the details of the sale and the company’s long-term plans for the facility,” said Kurtis Cooper, a spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. “The State Department takes seriously the security of its personnel, their work spaces and official residences. We are constantly evaluating our security protocols and standard operating procedures to ensure the safety and security of our information and personnel.”
Why not just cancel the government’s relationship with the hotel entirely? While it’d be a super-safe strategy, it’s too fraught with problems. Housing for U.N. ambassadors has to meet a number of requirements surrounding housing, reception space, security and proximity to the U.N. According to studies conducted during both Republican and Democratic administrations, both sides of the aisle agree the Waldorf makes the most effective and convenient place to stay while meeting all these requirements.