Chinese spy balloons under Trump not discovered until after Biden took office

The transfer of three suspected Chinese spy balloons over the continental United States during the Trump administration was discovered only after President Joe Biden took office, a senior administration official said Sunday.

The official did not say how or when the incidents were discovered.

The official said the intelligence community is prepared to brief key Trump administration officials on the Chinese surveillance program, which the Biden administration believes has been deployed in countries on five continents over the past several years. .

After the Biden administration revealed last week that a suspected Chinese spy balloon was hovering over Montana, the Pentagon said similar balloon incidents had occurred during the Trump administration. In response, Mark Esper, a former defense secretary in the Trump administration, said Friday that he was “surprised” by the statement.

“I don’t ever recall anyone coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon over the United States,” he said.

Former President Donald Trump also said on Truth Social this week that reports of Chinese balloons being transported to the US during his administration were “fake disinformation”.

Biden administration officials now say the incidents were not discovered until after the Trump administration left. But the official did not say how or when the incidents were discovered.

It was reported on Sunday that the Pentagon had informed Congress about previous Chinese surveillance balloons that flew near Texas and Florida during the Trump administration.

Representative Michael Waltz confirmed in a statement that “At this time, we understand that there were incursions near Florida and Texas, but we do not have an explanation of what kind of systems were on the balloons or what they were.” The intrusion had exceeded territorial waters or land.”

Another Chinese spy balloon also briefly transited the continental United States early in the Biden administration, a senior administration official said. But the balloon the US military shot down on Saturday was unique both in its route from Alaska and Canada to the US and in the time it spent lying over sensitive missile sites in Montana, officials said.

A senior administration official said the balloon’s capabilities were being analyzed on Saturday. But, the official added, “closer observation of the balloon in flight has allowed us to better understand the Chinese program and further confirm that its mission was surveillance.”

Republicans have criticized the Biden administration for not bringing down the balloon after it was first spotted over Alaska on January 28. House Republicans are weighing passage of a resolution this week condemning the Biden administration’s handling of the balloon, reported Sunday.

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