There was at least one additional Chinese spy balloon incident during the Biden administration’s watch, according to leaked classified Pentagon documents obtained by the Washington Post.
According to the leaked documents, U.S. intelligence agencies were aware of up to “four additional Chinese spy balloons,” including one that “carried sophisticated surveillance equipment and circumnavigated the globe from December 2021 until May 2022,” the Post reported Friday.
The intelligence community and the Biden administration’s awareness of that previous Chinese spy balloon calls into question why the Biden administration appeared to be caught flat-footed after another balloon later floated into U.S. airspace over Alaska in January of this year and was allowed to traverse the continental U.S. — including over sensitive military sites — before being shot down as it was exiting the U.S. over the Atlantic Ocean.
Watch Chinese Spy Balloon Shot Down Off South Carolina Coast
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It also calls into question why Biden administration officials told reporters there were three previous incidents of Chinese spy balloons under Trump but did not mention the one during the Biden administration, which was named Bulger-21 by U.S. intelligence. (North American Aerospace Defense Command later admitted that the military had missed the incidents under Trump and therefore no one in the Trump administration was aware of those balloon incidents.)
According to the Post, one balloon flew over a U.S. carrier strike group and another crashed in the South China Sea. There was no date listed for those incidents, though the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group was in the western Pacific in January and February, the Post noted.
A document from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) dated Feb. 15 contained a detailed government assessment of the balloon that flew over the U.S. in late January and early February before being shot down on February 5.
The balloon, named Killeen-23, had “sophisticated reconnaissance capabilities” including a parabolic dish, sensors, and solar panels that could generate up to 10,000 watts of power — enough to operate any surveillance and reconnaissance technology, possibly including synthetic aperture radar that could see at night, through clouds, and thin materials, according to the report.
However, the document also said the balloon also carried “a raft of sensors and antennas the U.S. government still had not identified more than a week after shooting it down,” according to the Post. This was despite Biden administration officials claiming they were able to collect intelligence on the spy balloon as they let it travel across the U.S.
Watch: Dem Rep. Smith on Spy Balloon: I’d Be ‘Stunned’ if China Hadn’t Done Similar Before
The document said the U.S. government had “no imagery collections of the bottom of the Killeen-23 payload to analyze for an optical sensor.”
Another document assessed that the incident “probably caught elements of China’s government by surprise,” citing intercepted communications, and said knowledge of the incursion into U.S. airspace was likely “heavily stovepiped” within the Chinese military. Biden administration officials claimed at the time that the Chinese president might not have been aware of the incident as it tried to smooth over relations with China. The Biden administration was forced to cancel a trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken amid American public outrage over the ballon.
Intelligence about the Chinese spy balloons is just the latest of many embarrassing revelations contained in the purported leak of Pentagon documents. The suspected leaker is 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guard Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira, though the investigation into the leaks is still underway.
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