A new report claims that the infamous Chinese spy balloon that invaded U.S. airspace in February most likely succeeded in collecting crucial intelligence from several U.S. military bases and other sites.
As the New York Post reports, the device spent seven days over the continental United States before it was finally shot down on February 4th, off the eastern coast. According to an NBC report, the device may have occasionally flown in figure-eight formations over key areas in order to ensure as much intelligence was gathered as possible, rather than simply continue in a straight line.
The report also claims that the intelligence that was gathered most likely came from electronic signals that were emitted by weapons systems or communications systems used by on-base personnel. NBC cited two current U.S. officials and one former White House official, all of whom remained anonymous.
Although the Pentagon has refused to publicly confirm which facilities were spied upon, the balloon’s path saw it pass over the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, and Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina. Offutt serves as the headquarters of U.S. Strategic Command overseeing the entirety of the nation’s nuclear forces, while Charleston hosts at least two squadrons of nuclear submarines.
Even though the balloon first crossed into U.S. airspace on January 28th, the White House did not confirm its existence until February 2nd, and refused multiple opportunities to shoot it down over mostly empty rural land, fearing environmental damage. The delayed response before finally shooting it down drew widespread criticism of the Biden Administration for inaction and appearing weak on China.
A White House spokeswoman, however, disagreed with the NBC report. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One on Monday, spokeswoman Olivia Dalton claimed that “the surveillance balloon, we believe, had limited ability to collect any additional intelligence beyond what could be collected through other surveillance means.”
Biden himself tried to downplay the severity of the incident, claiming in an interview on Telemundo that “the total amount of intelligence gathering that’s going on by every country around the world is overwhelming.”