Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

Chinese spy balloon gathered intelligence on US military sites

(Reuters) -A Chinese balloon that flew across the United States was able to gather intelligence from several U.S. military sites and transmit it back to Beijing in real time, despite the Biden administration’s efforts to prevent it from doing so, NBC News reported on Monday.

The high-altitude balloon, controlled by Beijing, was able to make multiple passes over some of the sites before it was shot down on Feb. 4, at times flying in a figure-eight formation, citing two current senior U.S. officials and one former senior administration official.

FILE PHOTO: The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the coast in Surfside Beach

FILE PHOTO: The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the coast in Surfside Beach© Thomson Reuters

The three officials said it could transmit the information it collected back to Beijing in real time, NBC reported.

“The intelligence China collected was mostly from electronic signals, which can be picked up from weapons systems or include communications from base personnel, rather than images,” NBC cited the officials as saying.

White House official John Kirby told reporters on Monday that he could not confirm NBC’s report, but said the U.S. limited the balloon’s “ability to be able to collect anything additive.”

Chinese spy balloon gathered intelligence on US military sites

He added that the U.S. government was able to study and analyze the balloon while it was in U.S. airspace, saying “we gained some useful context.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing and the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

At the time, U.S. officials played down the balloon’s impact on national security.

The balloon, which Beijing denies was a government spy vessel, spent a week flying over the United States and Canada early in February before the U.S. military shot it down off the Atlantic Coast on President Joe Biden’s orders.

The incident prompted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a planned visit to Beijing and further strained relations between Washington and Beijing.

The episode caused an uproar in Washington and led the U.S. military to search the skies for other objects that were not being captured on radar.

The United States said on Feb. 17 it had successfully concluded recovery efforts off South Carolina to collect sensors and other debris from the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon and that investigators would analyze its “guts.”

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington and Juby Babu in Bengaluru, Editing by Louise Heavens, Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)

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