A report could implicate the Biden administration in a decision to cover up a Chinese surveillance balloon’s flight over the continental United States in January.
Multiple current and former administration officials say the Biden administration hoped to maintain secrecy regarding the spy craft — even from Congress.
The federal government planned on keeping mum about the balloon, even while it actively analyzed it for security threats.
“Before it was spotted publicly, there was the intention to study it and let it pass over and not ever tell anyone about it,” one U.S. official who was “briefed on the balloon incident” told NBC News.
The report was headlined: “The secret U.S. effort to track, hide and surveil the Chinese spy balloon.”
President Joe Biden himself was briefed about the craft’s travel on Jan. 31 as it approached U.S. airspace from Canada, according to NBC. That was three days after Army Gen. Mark Milley, who was then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, learned about it, NBC reported.
A Chinese spy balloon has been flying over the United States for a couple of days, U.S. officials said, in what would be a brazen act just days ahead of a planned trip to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony Blinken https://t.co/m0jiZJ6Lpk pic.twitter.com/WYO9hdFBlt
— Reuters (@Reuters) February 3, 2023
The craft was spotted by members of the public and ultimately identified as being of Chinese origin — leading to intense scrutiny over U.S. air defense protocols and vulnerabilities to surveillance from the nation’s biggest military and geopolitical rival.
The government has since concluded that the craft was, in fact, collecting sensitive intelligence.
China described the solar-powered balloon as a weather monitoring device that had been inadvertently blown off course in a statement.
The balloon was ultimately shot down over American territorial waters off the coast of South Carolina.
BREAKING‼️🇺🇸🇨🇳 China’s “spy balloon” collected sensitive intelligence from U.S. military sites — NBC pic.twitter.com/NMaNraRxiI
— Radar🚨 (@RadarHits) April 3, 2023
The craft traversed the North American continent.
Senior U.S. defense officials were blindsided by the aircraft’s presence.
“They weren’t paying attention,” one administration official told NBC.
The report also put a twist on what was supposed to happen to the balloon once its mission was accomplished.
“Officials also assessed that China’s plan was to self-destruct the balloon, not return it back home,” NBC reported.
Also insane: China planned for the balloon to self-destruct after crossing the US
That means when Biden shot the balloon down only after it reached the east coast—he basically did China’s work for them pic.twitter.com/mAPH6GIwZZ
— John Hasson (@SonofHas) December 23, 2023
The NBC report included the Biden administration’s public posturing on the balloon — that it posed no threat to national security and that it was actually a bigger embarrassment to Beijing than it was to the United States.
“Privately, Biden administration officials complain that the political outcry over the balloon was wildly disproportionate to any threat it posed to U.S. national security,” the report stated.
“In their view, because China was so angered and humiliated, the damage done to the relationship between Washington and Beijing was a far graver threat to the U.S. than the balloon itself.”
In other words, the administration was more concerned with the incident’s effect on U.S.-China relations than the direct security implications, according to the report.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.