Chinese Spy Balloon Obtained Information On Military Installations, Data Was Immediately Transferred To Beijing

The U.S. government has concluded its investigation into the Chinese spy balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina on February 4. NBC reported on Monday that Beijing had obtained intelligence despite Beijing’s long-held assertion that the unmanned balloon was a benign civilian airship that accidentally veered off course and flew over sensitive American military installations. During this time, the “benign” airship was observed flying over sensitive American military installations, doing a figure eight over certain areas.

The NBC piece reported that despite the Biden administration’s efforts to prevent it, the Chinese spy balloon gathered intelligence from numerous sensitive American military facilities. The source came from two current senior U.S. officials and one former senior administration official.

One unanswered question at the time had been the ability of the balloon’s data collection technology data back, and the transmittal of any collected data to the Chinese authorities was a significant concern. During that time, it was widely believed that the Chinese would have to physically retrieve the device in order to obtain any collected data.

However, U.S. officials said China had been able to retrieve the data intelligence in real time. According to a recent report, China could manipulate the balloon to make repeated flights over some of the sites (at times flying in figure-eight formations) and relay the obtained data back to Beijing in real-time.

According to the officials, most of the intelligence gathered by China came from electronic signals, the type of single emitted by weapon systems. The report also said the data might have included conversations with base employees.

Upon recovering much of the balloon’s debris from the water after being shot down, U.S. officials said they discovered it was equipped with a self-destruct device. According to officials,  the balloon was cable of being destroyed remotely by China. Still, it is unclear if that did not occur because the system malfunctioned or because China chose not to activate it, they said.

According to sources who talked with NBC, intelligence countermeasures implemented by the Biden administration prevented the balloon from gathering more intelligence than it did. In certain instances, the Pentagon had to move swiftly to prevent electronic signals and conversations from reaching vital facilities. Yet, it traveled over U.S. territory for an extended period, first entering U.S. airspace above Alaska on January 28.

Despite the report’s attempt to portray President Biden’s response to the balloon saga as “success,” the central question that remains unanswered is how the balloon was able to linger over the United States unchecked for so long and why there was no Pentagon intervention earlier – especially if it was believed to be operated by a foreign adversary with malicious intent.