The Biden administration knew about the now-downed Chinese spy balloon as early as Saturday, Jan. 28th, but reportedly decided to remain mum about it for political reasons.
According to The New York Times, the balloon originally entered U.S. airspace that Saturday but then quickly flew back north into Canada.
At the time, trackers at U.S. Northern Command assumed it “to be just another one of China’s light probes around the edges of America’s defensive borders.”
But three days later on Tuesday, the balloon reappeared over Idaho, prompting Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to finally let President Joe Biden know about it.
That’s when the BS started.
ForksTalk Newswatch: ‘This is really egregious’: Former Trump nat sec official slams Biden admin’s inaction on Chinese spy balloon: A former national security official in the Trump administration blasted President Joe Biden Friday over inaction as a… https://t.co/lWHjFZizpS pic.twitter.com/gGtdGSIg4b
— ForksTalk (@TalkForks) February 4, 2023
Instead of informing Congress and the public, both of whom wouldn’t learn about the balloon until it crossed into Montana and was spotted by a local newspaper, the administration remained dead quiet. Why?
“The Biden administration knew it had to exercise extreme caution especially in what was a heated political environment ahead of 2024 elections, with Republicans agitating on which party could strike a harder or tougher line on China,” according to Bloomberg.
The administration reportedly was also desperate to not derail Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s since-“delayed” planned visit this weekend to China to meet with President Xi Jinping.
And so the Biden administration tried to deal with the balloon quietly, but to no avail.
By Wednesday the balloon had made its way into Montana, alarming Pentagon officials “because the state is home to the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, one of three U.S. Air Force bases that operate and maintain intercontinental ballistic missiles,” according to the Times.
As per an order from the president, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III then convened a meeting of top military/defense officials to discuss what to do about the balloon.
“General Milley and Mr. Austin advise[d] against shooting down the balloon, which ha[d] an undercarriage roughly the size of three buses, while it is over land because of the possibility of debris harming civilians and infrastructure,” according to the Times.
“U.S. officials convey[ed] to Chinese officials several times that the U.S. military might shoot down the spy balloon. Mr. Blinken [told] a Chinese diplomat in Washington in the evening that the American government [had] the right to take any actions to protect its interests,” the Times added.
Then came Thursday, the day that journalists at the Billings Gazette, a local Montana paper, spotted the balloon and broke the story, triggering massive concern and outrage, particularly from congressional Republicans.
Later that evening, the Biden administration finally broke its wall of silence.
“In a call starting at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, the administration finally went public. That spurred a rush to brief lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The Biden administration will hold a briefing next week for the ‘Gang of Eight,’ a group of lawmakers including the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees,” Bloomberg notes.
The next morning, China finally spoke up and claimed the balloon had accidentally flown into U.S. airspace (twice) on account of strong wind.
You can read China’s full statement on the US downing of the Chinese balloon here https://t.co/behHBQ6Qem pic.twitter.com/KtoMmvOkYB
— Faytuks News Δ (@Faytuks) February 5, 2023
The Biden administration did not believe them.
“Administration officials [were] privately dismissive of Beijing’s explanation, as [were] former American intelligence analysts. The official Chinese explanation mirrored a well-worn excuse for aerial espionage,” according to Bloomberg.
Indeed, speaking with the speaker, former CIA official Dennis Wilder said, “I do not know of anyone who constructs a meteorological balloon the size of three school buses.”
It’s at this point that the Biden administration “finally felt they had no choice but to postpone” Blinken’s trip to China.
The key word there is postpone. Because it’d be “the first high-level US visit to China in five years,” the administration didn’t want to outright cancel it. But they didn’t want to do nothing either for obvious reasons.
“A split screen of a spy satellite over the United States when Secretary Blinken lands in Beijing would not have been tenable,” Ryan Hass, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia on the National Security Council, said to Bloomberg.
By Saturday, Jan. 4th, the balloon was moving away from land, so the Biden administration finally decided to do something.
“We’re going to take care of it,” the president told reporters.
Q: “Any comment on China?”
Biden, after days of inaction on the CCP spy balloon: “We’re going to take care of it.” pic.twitter.com/D6n2nDadh4
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) February 4, 2023
A couple short hours later, U.S. fighter jets shot down the balloon as it as hovering off the South Carolina coast.
“This afternoon, at the direction of President Biden, U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in U.S. airspace,” Austin said in a statement.
“The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters,” he added.
Republished with permission from American Wire News Service
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