The spy balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4 contained technology capable of monitoring communications, officials in the Biden Administration announced Thursday.
The balloon was reportedly part of a fleet of balloons sent by China that had flown over “more than 40 countries across five continents” and “was capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations,” a senior State Department official announced, according to CNN.
The downed Chinese spy balloon contained technology to monitor communication signals and had flown over more than 40 countries, the US says https://t.co/ZJljnp1dVv
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) February 9, 2023
Based on images the US military took of the still-airborne balloon, officials were able to determine, before it was shot down, that the balloon’s equipment “was clearly for intelligence surveillance and inconsistent with the equipment on board weather balloons,” the New York Times reported.
The State Department also revealed that the antennas on the balloon were “likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications” and that the solar panels on the apparatus were large enough to power “multiple active intelligence collection sensors,” the outlet stated.
These revelations come as Department of Defense and Biden Administration officials are answering to Congress over the spy ballon’s incursion into US airspace. (RELATED: House Unanimously Condemns Chinese Spy Balloon, Leaves Biden Out Of It)
“The clear message to China is: we got free range in Alaska because they’re going to let us cruise over that until it gets to more sensitive areas,” Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski stated in a subcommittee meeting on Thursday.
Commander of US Northern Command and NORAD Gen. Glenn VanHerck defended the decision to wait until the balloon was over the Atlantic to bring it down. “We did not assess that it presented a significant collection hazard beyond what already exists in actionable technical means from the Chinese,” he said Monday, according to CNN.
State Department officials, however, assured China’s incursion would not go without consequences.
“It’s clear that they have been scrambling to explain why they violated U.S. sovereignty and still have no plausible explanation — and have found themselves on their heels,” the State Department official stated, according to ABC News. The official went on to say that China’s surveillance program would “continue to be exposed” thwarting Beijing’s efforts to use it for intelligence operations.
“The United States will also explore taking action against P.R.C. entities linked to the P.L.A. that supported the balloon’s incursion into U.S. airspace,” the State Department said, according to the New York Times. “We will also look at broader efforts to expose and address the P.R.C.’s larger surveillance activities that pose a threat to our national security, and to our allies and partners.”