Balloon incident reveals more than espionage as competition with China intensifies
Of course, there’s nothing new about superpowers spying on each other, even from balloons. President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized surveillance of the Soviet Union by installing cameras on balloons in the mid-1950s, flying them ‘over Soviet bloc countries under the guise of weather research’, according to an article published by the National Archives in 2009. It “caused more protest from the Kremlin than useful information,” reported the author, David Haight, archivist at the Eisenhower Library.
With the advent of the first spy satellites, balloons seemed to become obsolete.
Now they’re making a comeback because while spy satellites can see almost anything, balloons fitted with high-tech sensors fly over a site for much longer and can pick up radio, cellular and other transmissions that can’t be detected from the air. space. This is why Montana’s sighting of the balloon was critical; in recent years, the National Security Agency and the United States Strategic Command, which oversees the US nuclear arsenal, have redone communications with nuclear weapons sites. It would be one, but only one, of the natural targets for China’s Ministry of State Security, which oversees many of its national security hacks.
The NSA is also targeting China, of course. From the revelations of Edward Snowden, the former entrepreneur who exposed many of the agency’s operations a decade ago, the world learned that the United States had broken into the networks of Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications company , and had also tracked the movements of Chinese leaders and soldiers. responsible for moving Chinese nuclear weapons. This is only a small part of US surveillance in China.
Such activities reinforce China’s argument that everyone is doing it. Because they’re largely hidden — save for the occasional revelation of a big hack — they’ve rarely made it into national politics. It changes.
The balloon incident came at a time when Democrats and Republicans are vying to show who can be stronger against China. And it showed: The new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Michael R. Turner, a Republican from Ohio, echoed the many Republicans who argued the ball should go down sooner.
He called the shootout “a bit like going after the quarterback after the game is over. The satellite had completed its mission. He should never have been allowed to enter the United States, and he should never have been allowed to complete his mission.