U.S. intelligence officials reportedly say that several Chinese spy balloons floated over U.S. soil under former President Donald Trump but “went undetected” at the time and officials only “discovered after” Trump left office that the balloons were Chinese surveillance.
The news comes after the U.S. military used an F-22 Raptor on Saturday to take out a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina using a single air-to-air AIM-9X Sidewinder missile that was fired at an altitude of approximately 58,000 feet. The decision to shoot down the spy balloon came after President Joe Biden allowed it to fly thousands of miles over the continental U.S. during the last several days.
Fox News reported early on Sunday that a Chinese spy balloon crashed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii late last year and that there were incursions into U.S. airspace during the Trump administration.
The claim that the Chinese spy balloons flew over U.S. soil under Trump generated strong pushback from the former president and from several of his top former officials, including John Ratcliffe, Director of National Intelligence; John Bolton, national security adviser; Robert O’Brien, national security adviser; Ric Grenell, acting Director of National Intelligence; and Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense.
In a separate report by Fox News, a senior Biden administration said that “U.S. intelligence, not the Biden administration” assesses that “PRC government surveillance balloons transited the continental U.S. briefly at least three times during the prior administration and once that we know of at the beginning of this administration, but never for this duration of time.”
However, the official then noted that the previous administration did not know about the incursions and that they were only discovered after Trump left office.
“This information was discovered after the [Trump] administration left,” the official said. “They went undetected. Two things can be true at once: this happened and it wasn’t detected.”
The official said that discovery is “part of a larger pattern” about what communist China is doing with its military as it becomes more aggressive in its foreign policy.
“These balloons are all part of a PRC fleet of balloons developed to conduct surveillance operations, which have also violated the sovereignty of other countries,” the official added.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) suggested during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” that there was a possibility that these balloons flew over the U.S. under Trump but that they were never discovered until recently.
“What’s even more worrisome is, one, did our senior military know about these balloons in the past and not inform their civilian superiors during the Trump administration?” Cotton asked. “Or maybe worst of all, did we not know about these balloons in the past and we only learned about them in retrospect by studying historical data?”