The State Department has admitted that the reputed Chinese spy balloon that floated over the United States for eight days, including vital national security sites, was equipped with antennas that likely could collect communications.
That news came from a senior State Department official on Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported, adding that the official revealed the balloon had large solar panels that could power collection sensors and that the balloon’s manufacturer is involved with China’s military. Information about the balloon — which flew over Montana, where a nuclear missile silo field at Malmstrom Air Force Base is located — was obtained by using high-altitude U-2 aircraft as well as debris left by the balloon after it was shot down on Saturday.
Although the U.S. military has no authority to gather intelligence within the U.S., Gen. Glen VanHerck, the commander of the U.S. Northern Command, revealed, “specific authorities were granted to collect intelligence against the balloon specifically, and we utilized specific capabilities to do that.”
Speaking of the balloon’s manufacturer, the senior official stated, “The company also advertises balloon products on its website and hosts videos from past flights, which appear to have overflown at least U.S. airspace and airspace of other countries. These advertised balloon videos seemingly have similar flight patterns as the balloons we have been discussing this week.”
Last Friday, after citizens in Montana had identified the balloon the day before and the Pentagon said it was tracking a suspected Chinese spy balloon, China’s foreign ministry stated, “The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course.”
Last weekend, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) slammed President Joe Biden on “Fox News Sunday.”
“What began as a spy balloon has become a trial balloon, testing President Biden’s strength and resolve. And unfortunately, the president failed that test. And that’s dangerous for the American people. The president was paralyzed for entire week by a balloon,” Cotton said. “We should have shot this balloon down over the Aleutian Islands. We should have never allowed it to transit the entire continental United States. And I think there’s a lot of open questions that the administration needs to answer to Congress on behalf of the American people about why they didn’t.”
“Democratic presidents only take action like shooting down this balloon once their hand is forced,” Cotton added. “And I think on Thursday, when civilians in Montana identified this balloon, it — well, it forced the president’s hand.”
Related: Tom Cotton: Biden Was ‘Paralyzed For Entire Week By A Balloon’ Because He’s Afraid Of ‘Chinese Communists’