The Chinese spy balloon that was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean last week was ‘likely capable of collecting’ and pinpointing American ‘communications’ as it traversed several US states, an official said on Thursday.
American intelligence is uncovering a vast surveillance network by Beijing that has spanned 40 countries and five continents, according to the State Department.
The US is considering taking ‘action’ against China for what it calls a violation of American sovereignty.
‘It had multiple antennas to include an array likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications,’ the official said.
‘It was equipped with solar panels large enough to produce the requisite power to operate multiple active intelligence collection sensors.’
In this image provided by the FBI, FBI special agents assigned to the evidence response team process material recovered from the high altitude balloon recovered off the coast of South Carolina, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia
The FBI has categorized the recovery mission as being in its very early stages
The suspected Chinese spy balloon traversed several US states before being shot down on Saturday
China ‘s suspected ‘spy balloon’ that unnerved millions of Americans last week is seemingly part of a larger global surveillance plot by Beijing ‘s authoritarian government, a new report claimed on Wednesday
US intelligence links the program directly to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China’s principle military force.
The official said the US will ‘explore taking action against [Chinese government] entities linked to the PLA that supported the balloon’s incursion into US airspace.’
‘We will also look at broader efforts to expose and address the [Chinese government’s] larger surveillance activities that pose a threat to our national security, and to our allies and partners,’ they said.
Air Force jets shot down the balloon, which kicked off public furor over Beijing’s spying tactics on Saturday, just off the coast of South Carolina.
It was first detected crossing US territory on January 28, briefly passing over Canada, then traversing several states in the continental US before it was brought down on February 4.
President Joe Biden gave the order to shoot it down on Wednesday last week but Defense officials cautioned that it would be safer to do so when the falling debris no longer posed a risk to Americans on the ground.
Most of the debris is still underwater as of Thursday, according to FBI officials who briefed reporters on the recovery.
‘It’s very early for us in this process, and the evidence that has been recovered and brought to the FBI is extremely limited,’ an official said.
Meanwhile the State Department official said the same day: ‘The United States sent a clear message to [China] that its violation of our sovereignty was unacceptable by shooting down the balloon, protecting our own sensitive intelligence, and maximizing our ability to track the balloon and recover the payload to get more information on [China’s] program.’
This picture provided by the US Navy shows sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
The US government is weighing whether to take action against Beijing over the matter, a State Department official said on Thursday
‘From [China’s] messaging and public comments, it’s clear that they have been scrambling to explain why they violated US sovereignty and still have no plausible explanation – and have found themselves on their heels,’ they said.
The statement also took aim at Beijing’s claims that the device was merely a weather balloon that was blown off course.
‘High resolution imagery from U-2 flybys revealed that the high-altitude balloon was capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations,’ the State Department said.
‘The high altitude balloon’s equipment was clearly for intelligence surveillance and inconsistent with the equipment on board weather balloons.’
The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to condemn China over the balloon incident.