The Biden administration, after receiving massive backlash for letting the Chinese-owned “spy” balloon fly over US airspace from Alaska to South Carolina, finally directed the United States military to shoot down the satellite on Saturday.
Once collected and inspected, it was confirmed that the equipment carried by the ballon was operating electronic surveillance technology capable of monitoring communications signals, according to a senior State Department official on Thursday, multiple news outlets reported.
In a lengthy Thursday morning statement containing newly declassified intelligence, the official said the U.S. “will also look at broader efforts to expose and address [China’s] larger surveillance activities that pose a threat to our national security, and to our allies and partners.”
But in a briefing hours later, the FBI said it couldn’t confirm the intent of the balloon based on what it has so far recovered.
“High-resolution imagery from U-2 flybys revealed that the high-altitude balloon was capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations,” the official said in reference to the Air Force’s high-altitude reconnaissance plane, Politico reported.
The official noted that the equipment on the Chinese spy balloon was “inconsistent” with what would be aboard a weather balloon since it had “multiple antennas to include an array likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications.”
According to CNN, the official said that the balloon was “part of a PRC (People’s Republic of China) fleet of balloons developed to conduct surveillance operations,” which are “often undertaken at the direction of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).”
The official also acknowledged that China “has overflown these surveillance balloons over more than 40 countries across five continents” and that “the Biden Administration is reaching out to countries directly about the scope of this program and answer any questions.”
The United States “will also explore taking action against PRC entities linked to the PLA that supported the balloon’s incursion into US airspace.”
“A recovery operation to secure debris from the balloon is ongoing with analysis continuing at an FBI laboratory in Virginia, but the officials’ remarks suggest the US has already established the balloon was operating with electronic surveillance technology,” CNN noted.
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