The State Department has decided that 16,000 computers it bought from a company with ties to the Chinese government should be used only for unclassified work after a lawmaker criticized the purchase as potentially dangerous to national security.
Richard Griffin, assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, said Thursday in a letter sent to Representative Frank R. Wolf, Republican of Virginia, that the State Department was also changing the way it bought technology to guarantee the security of information.
The government, Mr. Griffin wrote, is committed to making sure the purchase from Lenovo, will not “compromise our information and communication channels.”
Mr. Wolf, chairman of the House subcommittee that finances State Department operations, said he had raised alarms after learning that officials planned to use at least 900 of the computers in classified work and at American embassies and consulates abroad. That, he said, could possibly give China access to sensitive information.
Lenovo purchased I.B.M.’s personal computer business last year. The computers will be made in North Carolina and Mexico.
A Lenovo executive said claims that China might use the computers to spy were unfair and subjected Lenovo to “guilt by association.”
“We are absolutely confident in the security of our manufacturing process,” said Jeffrey Carlisle, Lenovo’s vice president for government relations. “These computers do not present a risk to U.S. security.”
Lenovo is a publicly traded company controlled by Legend Holdings, which was started with Chinese government backing in 1984; the government-controlled Chinese Academy of Sciences holds 65 percent of Legend.
Mr. Carlisle, the Lenovo executive, said the Chinese government agency that owned part of Lenovo did not become involved in strategy or decision making and did not appoint people to the company’s board.