Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Feb. 5, 2023, after it was shot down. (Source: U.S. Department of Defense)

U.S. Military Reports Evidence of China Ballon Collection of Sensitive Data Via Slow Fly-Over

With all the incredible news about chatbots and the arraignment of an ex-president in a Manhattan courtroom this week, the shooting down of a Chinese weather balloon may seem long in the past. But the huge white orb that floated over Alaska, and down across the entire length of the United States until it was downed over South Carolina was loaded with more than a ton of electronic sensors that experts claimed were spying on U.S. military installations.

An informative piece on this week breaks down what happened and what  China was doing with its lazy flyover a little over a month ago.

Two senior U.S. officials and one former senior administration official told NBC News that the balloon collected electronic signals as it flew over multiple military sites, sometimes flying in figure-eight formations. The electronic signals can be transmitted from weapons systems or obtained through communications from base personnel before it was shot down on February 4, officials said.

President Joe Biden eventually gave the go-ahead to shoot down the spy balloon, which was the size of three school buses when it was over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina.

Officials told CNN they knew the direction the balloon was taking and could proactively shut down its military communication systems to censor signals on the bases before the balloon could access them. Meanwhile, China has repeatedly denied obtaining any surveillance information, saying the U.S. overreacted, but officials are still looking into which company, department, or organization was responsible for the balloon, NBC reported.

The balloon set off a firestorm of back-and-forth arguments over how long it took to shoot it down.  The voices unhappy with President Biden often raged over the path this steerable balloon took.  And questioned why the delay in bringing it down. These voices overlook it could have crushed anything below it and the risk was too great. The military waited til it was over the Atlantic Ocean.

The FBI is still examining the large amount of debris that was recovered. This debris was loaded with electronic sensors that provided information back to China in real-time. It seems the Chinese military decided it didn’t get enough information from the round-the-clock information it receives from satellites.

After the balloon was shot down, Biden said the balloon was “not a major breach,” The Guardian reported, but added, “It’s a violation of international law. It’s our airspace. And once it comes into our space, we can do what we want with it.”

And that’s exactly what he did.