Chinese Surveillance Balloon Collected Intel, Sent To China In ‘Real Time’
According to a new report, the Chinese surveillance balloon seen flying over the United States earlier this year had gathered and reported intelligence from multiple sensitive sites, sending it back to China in “real time.”
Despite the Pentagon’s claims that they had blocked transmission from the spy balloon, multiple U.S. officials have confirmed to NBC News that China did receive data from the balloon.
The Biden administration has already faced backlash for their failure to shoot down the surveillance balloon before it could travel across the U.S., after news broke that they had lied about tracking the balloon since before it entered U.S. airspace. The administration previously claimed they had first become aware of the balloon while it was flying near Alaska on January 28, but the story quickly evolved into claims that they had known earlier but did not have a chance to shoot it down. Later, the story changed again — with NORAD Commander Glen VanHerck claiming that they could not shoot it down because it was demonstrating “hostile intent.”
CBS News later broke the story that the U.S. had known about the balloon since it left China, and thus had plenty of time to shoot it down before it even entered U.S. airspace. Nonetheless, the Biden administration waited until February 4 to shoot the balloon down while it was flying over the Carolina coast.
The latest report from NBC News, citing two current U.S. officials and one former Biden administration official, states that China was in full control of the balloon — and was able to maneuver it to make several passes over certain sensitive military sites. While maneuvering the balloon, sometimes in a figure-eight pattern, China was able to transmit all of the gathered data back to Beijing in “real time.”
The three officials also reportedly stated that the data sent back to China was primarily electronic signals that could be collected from military base communications or U.S. weapons systems.
NBC News requested comment from the National Security Council, which directed the outlet to statements made by the Department of Defense (DOD) in February, where they claimed that the balloon had “limited additive value” to the Chinese “over and above what [China] is likely able to collect through things like satellites in low earth orbit.”
While the State Department previously admitted that the Chinese surveillance balloon had intelligence-gathering capabilities, Pentagon officials claimed in February that China was only able to gather a small amount of intelligence thanks to U.S. measures to protect sensitive intelligence, CNN reported.
The hosts of Fox News Channel’s “The Five” reacted to the new report in a segment on Monday, blasting the Biden administration for failing to take action against China in the aftermath, as well as for lying about the surveillance balloon’s transmission.