Trump officials deny Chinese spy balloons flew over US under their watch

“That never happened. It never would have happened,” Trump told Fox News on Sunday.

“I don’t know a single civilian national security official in the Trump administration who has heard of this,” said a national security official in the Trump administration, who, like others, has spoken. expressed on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters.

The backlash came after senior Biden administration officials spoke to reporters about Saturday’s operation that shot down the Chinese spy balloon after its week-long crossing of the United States. A senior DoD official said similar aircraft entered US airspace three times during Trump’s tenure and once before during the current administration.

“I can confirm that there have been other incidents where balloons have approached or crossed United States territory,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. General Patrick Ryder on Saturday, declining to provide additional information.

The difference, Department of Defense officials said, is that these balloons never remained over US territory for a significant period of time. When pressed for details, such as the date, location and duration of those instances, Biden administration officials declined to provide them citing the classified nature of the information.

Some officials, however, spoke in generalities. The DoD tracks “hundreds” of balloons every day, but they are generally not considered a threat. Their presence near or over the United States would not come to the attention of senior leaders unless their behavior was “completely out of the ordinary, like this,” a senior US official said. Pentagon.

At lower levels, officials have tracked several instances of balloon activity over US territories in recent years. One of the Trump-era balloons flew over Guam, according to two US officials. And in 2020, the intelligence community believed that much smaller balloons detected off the coast of Virginia were Chinese radar jamming devices, according to a former senior DoD official.

representing Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), member of the House Armed Services Committee, tweeted sunday that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s office had informed his office that “several incidents of Chinese balloons have occurred over the past few years – including over Florida”.

“Why weren’t they shot?” he added. “And according to several Trump Admin national security officials – they were never made aware of these intrusions by the Pentagon.”

The other time a similar blimp appeared with Biden in the White House was last February near Hawaii.

Other senior Biden administration officials say it’s possible senior Trump officials weren’t briefed on the incursions. In some cases, the aircraft were smaller and were only in US airspace for short periods, making them harder to detect. And in others, some assumed that the information didn’t go all the way to the top because the flyovers weren’t meaningful enough.

Events may also not have been discovered in real time and only recently reconstructed with after-the-fact intelligence. A senior administration official said the events were “undetected”.

“We’ve gotten better at detection over time,” a second senior Biden administration official said, noting that those responsible for monitoring China’s spy balloons may remain in government even with a new president in office. oval.

But Trump officials categorically deny any of this ever happened. “I never remember anyone walking into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon over the United States,” Esper told CNN on Friday.

“That never happened in the first two years of the Trump administration,” said a former senior DoD official. A senior Trump intelligence official said nothing like what happened last week had happened in the four years of the previous administration.

Biden’s team has given no indication that it will degrade intelligence to prove there have been past examples of Chinese spy balloons over the United States from 2017 to 2021.

All senators will receive a briefing on the theft of the vehicle that was just shot down on Feb. 15, the Senate Majority Leader says chuck schumer said Sunday.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button