In the past few hours, additional information has come to light explaining why former President Donald Trump never had the opportunity to shoot down Chinese spy balloons.
Anonymous former U.S. government officials, as reported in the media, revealed these new details. Meanwhile, Trump and top members of his administration publicly refuted allegations from President Biden's national security team that such balloons had flown over the U.S. during their tenure.
Officials from the Trump administration informed Bloomberg that the evaluation of unidentified objects took several weeks, as the Chinese surveillance balloons had jamming systems that obscured their purpose. The news report then straightforwardly states: "The former president was never given the chance to shoot down the balloons."
A different report from POLITICO stated that lower-ranking officials detected various balloon activities over U.S. territories in recent years. Citing a former high-ranking Defense Department official, the article reported that the intelligence community determined in 2020 that the "significantly smaller" balloons detected off Virginia's coast were Chinese radar jamming devices.
The disagreement between former Trump officials and the Biden administration started after the U.S. government acknowledged a possible Chinese reconnaissance balloon hovering at a high altitude over the country last week. The military shot down the balloon with a fighter jet on Saturday, as it had flown over the coast of the Carolinas and the Pentagon expressed concerns about falling debris over land. The U.S. then conducted a salvage operation. China denies the balloon was a spy device and asserts it was a weather balloon that had been blown off course.
The United States has shot down the high altitude balloon from China at the centre of a spying scandal. President Joe Biden ordered the strike, the spectacular show of force happening live on TV. https://t.co/b3nAU1JF34 @telester #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/ZUJ3paV47B
— 7NEWS Australia (@7NewsAustralia) February 5, 2023
During this national security issue, Republicans and members of Trump's administration criticized Biden on various media platforms for allowing the balloon to reach as far as it did. It was then that a high-ranking U.S. defense official first revealed that Chinese government surveillance balloons "transited the mainland U.S. briefly at least three times during the previous administration and once that we are aware of at the start of this administration, but never for this length of time."
Former Trump-era officials, including former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, expressed skepticism about this statement. Trump vehemently denied it, saying "This never happened. It would have never happened," in a statement to Fox News.
Subsequently, there were reports citing a high-ranking Biden official who claimed that Chinese spy balloons over the U.S. during the Trump administration were detected after he left office. It was later disclosed that the Pentagon informed Congress about sightings near Florida and Texas. “Currently, we understand there were incursions near Florida and Texas, but we don’t have clarity on what kind of systems were on these balloons or if these incursions occurred in territorial waters or overflew land,” said Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL).
A source within the intelligence community informed CNN that they are prepared to present their findings to key officials in the Trump administration through briefings.
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