Chinese Spy Balloon Gathered Intelligence From Sensitive U.S. Military Sites

Two current senior officials and one former senior administration official have reported that a Chinese spy balloon collected intelligence from sensitive U.S. military locations, despite efforts by the U.S. to prevent this.

The Chinese spy balloon that flew across the U.S. was able to gather intelligence from several sensitive American military sites, despite the Biden administration’s efforts to block it from doing so, according to two current senior U.S. officials and one former senior administration official.

China was able to control the balloon so it could make multiple passes over some of the sites (at times flying figure-eight formations) and transmit the information it collected back to Beijing in real time, the three officials said. The intelligence China collected was mostly from electronic signals, which can be picked up from weapons systems or include communications from base personnel, rather than images, the officials said.

The three officials said China could have gathered much more intelligence from sensitive sites if not for the administration’s efforts to move around potential targets and obscure the balloon’s ability to pick up their electronic signals by stopping them from broadcasting or emitting signals.

The Defense Department directed NBC News to comments senior officials made in February that the balloon had “limited additive value” for intelligence collection by the Chinese government “over and above what [China] is likely able to collect through things like satellites in low earth orbit.”

On Monday, a Defense Department spokesperson reiterated that any intelligence collected had “limited additive value” for China and said she could not confirm that the balloon had transmitted any information back to China in “real time.”

Another official claimed that on average, one balloon flies above Taiwan each month, but that is just one of the army of spy balloons that China has launched around the world.

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