Chinese Spy Balloon Used US Tech To Spy On Americans

The Chinese spy balloon that passed over the US early this year used American technology that helped it collect audio-visual information, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. It cited preliminary findings from a closely held investigation. Analysis from several US defense and intelligence agencies found that the balloon carried commercially available US gear and more specialized Chinese sensors and other equipment to collect photographs, video, and other information. The resulting data was to be transmitted to China, the report said.

The US military sent Cold War-era U-2 spy planes to track the balloon as it passed over the United States and ultimately shot it down over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday. The Pentagon says the planes gathered over a dozen hours of data on the craft before being brought down.

Officials are still examining recovered parts of the balloon, which have already been sent to FBI labs for testing. The recovery operation is expected to take weeks, but officials say they expect the recovered components to give them insight into how Chinese engineers are putting together surveillance technology. The State Department on Thursday released a document saying that the US government is confident that the Chinese company that manufactured the balloon had direct commercial ties to the People’s Liberation Army, the country’s military.

US officials believe the balloon could intercept radio signals and record conversations, though they do not know how much data was collected. According to the State Department document, the balloon was part of a broader Chinese fleet developed to conduct surveillance operations in countries worldwide.

The US has slapped China with sanctions for the incident, and last week Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Beijing in an attempt to mend diplomatic relations. The Chinese foreign ministry said that the government thought the balloon was for civilian purposes and accidentally drifted over sensitive US military sites.

Several lawmakers have expressed outrage at the administration for waiting to shoot down the balloon until it was over water. This would have minimized the risk of harming people on the ground. But a senior White House official said President Joe Biden agreed with the military’s assessment that doing so over land could be too dangerous.

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