(The Hill) — The Chinese surveillance balloon that flew over the U.S. for days before it was shot down off the east coast earlier this year was able to gather intelligence from sensitive military sites, according to a new NBC News report.
China received the information collected by the balloon immediately, and was able to control its flight path, NBC News reported, citing two senior U.S. officials and a former senior administration official.
The intelligence Beijing was able to access was predominantly from electronic signals, according to the report, and the Biden administration’s work to limit the balloon’s ability to pick up those signals likely prevented much more sensitive intelligence from being gathered.
President Joe Biden ordered the U.S. military to shoot down a Chinese surveillance balloon that had spent days floating across the U.S., prompting concerns about what intel could have been gathered from the flight.
Beijing has said that the aircraft was a civilian weather balloon blown off-course and accused the U.S. of overreacting with the takedown, but defense officials said the balloon had clearly been crossing over sensitive U.S. sites with the apparent intent to monitor military areas.
U.S. officials said at the time that they’d taken steps to keep Beijing from accessing sensitive intel while the balloon was still crossing the count, but the NBC News report indicates the Biden administration’s efforts to protect against surveillance didn’t stop all of Beijing’s intelligence gathering.