FBI To Study Possible Spy Balloon Discovered By Alaska Fishermen: REPORT

(Photo by Ryan Seelbach/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Commercial fishermen in Alaska are delivering a possible spy balloon to the FBI for further study, CNN reported Friday, citing three sources familiar with the matter.

Representatives from the FBI will meet the commercial fishing vessel when it comes to port, likely over the weekend, to retrieve the object officials are concerned could be another Chinese spy balloon, according to CNN. The FBI will then take the object to its labe in Quantico, Virginia, for further testing, like it did with the Chinese spy balloon recovered from waters off the U.S.’ east coast in February 2023.

The fishermen sent photographs of the object to law enforcement after encountering it, the sources reportedly told CNN. While they said the object might not even be a balloon, the photographs sparked sufficient concern among law enforcement that FBI officers who viewed the photos wanted to bring it in for investigating. (RELATED: US Believes China Nixed Spy Balloon Operations After February Shoot-Down Caused Tensions To Skyrocket)

They said it resembled previous known balloons sent by foreign governments to surveil the U.S., CNN reported.

“The FBI is aware of debris found off the coast of Alaska by a commercial fishing vessel. We will work with our partners to assist with the logistics of the debris recovery,” the agency told the Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement.

Just over a year ago, a large, high-altitude Chinese spy balloon transiting from Alaska and across the contiguous United States sparked a furor in Washington. U.S. fighter aircraft downed the balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4, 2023, in U.S. airspace.

Before then, the balloon had transited across sensitive military installations. Biden administration officials said they had taken steps to protect sensitive installations from the spying capabilities of the Chinese balloon and that it could not jeopardize any U.S. national security priorities.

The administration revealed the Chinese spy balloon was part of a broader military-run aerial surveillance operation aimed at gathering intelligence on other countries, including the U.S.

Hunters return from a trip along the coast of the Bering Sea near the climate change affected Yupik Eskimo village of Quinhagak on the Yukon Delta in Alaska on April 12, 2019. - With recent unusually high temperatures life in this remote villages has been affected causing eroded land, flooding, and difficulties to access roads and to hunting. Local leaders are also mulling moving the entire village of 700 people to safer grounds. "From 1901 to 2016, average temperatures in the mainland United States increased by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (one degree Celsius), whereas in Alaska they increased by 4.7 degrees," said Rick Thoman, a climate expert with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy. According to a 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office, the majority of the state's more than 200 native villages are affected by erosion and flooding, with 31 facing "inminent threats". (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP)

Hunters return from a trip along the coast of the Bering Sea near the climate change affected Yupik Eskimo village of Quinhagak on the Yukon Delta in Alaska on April 12, 2019. (MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

The initial sighting in late January revealed gaps in U.S. awareness. North America Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a combined U.S.-Canada airspace warning and defense organization, did not recognize previous instances of Chinese surveillance balloons entering U.S. territory, the former NORAD and U.S. Northern Command chief Gen. Glen VanHerck told Congress in February 2023.

After that, the military widened the aperture of radar signals and picked up several balloons in the sky, CNN reported.

On Feb. 23, the U.S. military dispatched fighter jets to get a better look at a balloon transiting over the Midwest, but it was not assessed to threaten U.S. national security or commercial airspace.

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