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Active sensors to collect intel discovered in shot-down balloon

The piece of spyware from China soared across the United States for over a week before the Biden administration took aim.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The U.S. is exploring what retaliation to take at Beijing after finding that the enormous balloon shot down by the military off the East Coast last week had proven ties to the Chinese military and multiple antennas “likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications.”

“The United States will also explore taking action against PRC entities linked to the PLA that supported the balloon’s incursion into U.S. airspace,” a senior State Department official said in a statement Thursday, abbreviating the names of the People's Republic of China and the People's Liberation Army. “We will also look at broader efforts to expose and address the PRC’s larger surveillance activities that pose a threat to our national security, and to our allies and partners.”

After fighter jets downed the estimated 200-foot tall balloon following an eight-day flight across the U.S., Navy divers took the salvaged debris to various FBI laboratories for analyzation. China’s foreign ministry described the device as a weather balloon that had blown off course, but the U.S. official said Thursday the balloon held equipment designed to collect communication data. 

During flybys, U-2 planes took photos of the device that showed it had technology “inconsistent” with weather balloons, including “solar panels large enough to produce the requisite power to operate multiple active intelligence collection sensors,” the official continued, threatening action against China.

The U.S. is sure the maker of the balloon “has a direct relationship with China’s military and is an approved vendor of the PLA, according to information published in an official procurement portal for the PLA," the official continued.

Without naming the company that made the balloon, the official said the business advertises balloon products on its website and shows videos from prior flights that look like they have flown over U.S. territory.

The official said the balloon is part of a fleet designed to conduct surveillance operations for the U.S. military and that China has helmed similar flights over more than 40 countries and five continents.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman echoed this in testimony Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying China’s high-altitude surveillance balloon “entered our territorial airspace in clear violation of our sovereignty and international law."

She signaled the balloon was an attempt at the country’s efforts to spy on U.S. technology in order to gain more world power.

"The PRC is the only competitor with the intent and means to reshape the international order," Sherman said.

On Wednesday, National Security Council Admiral John Kirby said at a press conference that the United States is eager to learn more about the balloon program.

“We are going to be making sure that our allies and partners around the world have the same sort of context about this program that we do,” Kirby said.

Categories: Government Politics Technology

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