Senators demand answers from Biden after report Chinese spy balloon gathered intelligence
After reports that Beijing had been able to transmit real-time information, Senators are stepping up their criticisms of the Biden administration’s handling the Chinese spy balloon.
Senator Steve Daines (R.MT), who has been vocal since the balloon flew over Malmstrom Air Force Base which is home to one the nation’s nuclear missile silo fields and three nuclear missile silos, stated that the report showed the administration had mishandled the situation.
Daines stated in a statement that “the administration’s explanation of the balloon’s ‘limited add value’ is no comfort to Montanans or the American people, and weak spin on a topic the administration mishandled throughout its handling.” This is the latest embarrassment in national security from an administration that projects only weakness on the international stage. It has real world consequences when it comes to national safety.
Jon Tester, a fellow Montana senator, has tweeted his concern about the latest report. He is running for reelection in 2024.
He said, “I will continue to hold the Biden Administration responsible to ensure Montanans have their freedom and privacy protected.”
NBC News discovered that China controlled the balloon, despite the U.S. military trying to block it from picking up electronic signals. The balloon could “multiple passes over sensitive military sites,” “at times flying figures-eight formations,” and beam “electronic signal” back to China, “communications from the base personnel included.”
CNN reports that the U.S. is not certain if the Chinese government was capable of wiping the data remotely. This raises questions about the intelligence of the foreign adversary.
This information is coming as top defense officials stated in February that the balloon was of “limited additive value” to intelligence collection by China.
Tester was critical about the Biden administration’s handling of the balloon incident in February. The vulnerable Montana Democrat, after a confidential briefing on Capitol Hill on the subject, stated that the U.S. military made a good decision at the time.
Tester stated that she was more comfortable with the explanations of what they had collected. She spoke to CNN in February during an interview with Jake Tapper.
Tester recently announced that he will run for his seat again in 2024. However, he is already being criticized for previous comments about the balloon. As Tester stated on CNN in February, the National Republican Senatorial Committee issued a statement in which it questioned whether Tester still believes that the Chinese balloon doesn’t pose a threat to national security.
Senator Roger Wicker (R. MS), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said that he is frustrated by the fact that he continues to learn new information through press reports rather than directly from the administration officials.
Wicker stated Monday that “these revelations clearly show that the administration made an inacceptable mistake.” “I will not abandon all my oversight efforts to uncover the full range information related to this incident, and I intend holding this administration responsible.”
Wicker stated, “It is crucial that Congress also examine the capability and protocol enhancements at the Department of Defense that would prevent something like this from ever happening again.”
Senator from Mississippi wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asking for clarifications and requesting the answers in unclassified form so they could be shared with the public.
Sabrina Singh, Pentagon deputy press secretary, stated Monday that the “precautionary measures” taken to limit Chinese intelligence collection were largely effective. However she could not give further details about what information might have been sent to China.
Singh stated that “because of the steps we were in a position to take, we were capable to prevent transmission of – of certain aspects to our sites to be transmitted,” during an afternoon briefing. “But, in terms of transmission to the PRC as well as what was possible to be transmitted back to you, I don’t have any further information at this time.”
John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, told reporters that he couldn’t confirm reports that the balloon intercepted communications at sensitive military sites. He also refused to say whether the balloon flew in figure eight patterns over U.S. bases.
After it flew over Montana’s sensitive military sites, the surveillance balloon was shot down in the Atlantic. It drifted eastward for several days before being eventually tracked to its destination. Some Democratic lawmakers attempted to call the incident a victory for the U.S. in the immediate aftermath.
On February 12, Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D.NY), stated that “we got enormous intelligence information by surveilling a balloon as it flew over the United States.”
“By shooting it over water, U.S waters, just 6 miles from South Carolina, we’re likely to be able piece together this whole, entire surveillance balloon and understand exactly what’s happening. Schumer stated that it was a major coup for the United States.
Daines will introduce new legislation to prevent another surveillance balloon from entering the U.S. Airspace unrecognized in the future. Daines met with Malmstrom Air Force Base, Great Falls, last month to draft a bill that requires a gap analysis of North American Aerospace Defense Command capabilities. This could reveal limitations or potential areas that foreign adversaries could exploit.
Daines stated that “We must get the bottom of what these objects did to American and Montanan airspace” and that he would ensure that it never happens again.