The Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina over the weekend was part of a larger surveillance program that operated “for several years,” the Pentagon said on Wednesday, February 8.
In a press briefing, Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder said officials were aware of four previous spy balloons that had gone over US territory.
Ryder said in some cases these balloons had not been identified at the time but subsequent intelligence analysis indicated that they were Chinese balloons.
“This last week provided the United States with a unique opportunity to learn a lot more about the Chinese surveillance balloon program,” Ryder said. “All information that will help us to continue to strengthen our ability to track these kinds of objects.” Credit: Department of Defense via Storyful
- So to go back to the balloon, does the Pentagon with certainty now that the balloon actually came from China, ie was launched from China? And if so, where?
And then the duty has said that there have been at least three other balloon incidents during the previous administration and one other incident during this administration. Can you tell us a little bit about how you were able to discern that these balloons were the same and they were also Chinese spy balloons?
- Sure. So let me address your second questions-- well, your second question first. So again, I'm not able to go into the intelligence. As you highlight, we are aware that there have been four previous balloons that have gone over US territory. This is what we assess as part of a larger Chinese surveillance balloon program. You've heard us talk in the past about the fact that this is a program that's been operated for several years.
What we do know is that in some cases, whereas some of these balloons previously had not been identified, subsequent analysis, subsequent intelligence analysis did enable us to indicate that these were Chinese balloons. In terms of where they're coming from, I can't go into the specific location other than to say, China. And the last thing I'll say is that this last week provided the United States with a unique opportunity to learn a lot more about the Chinese surveillance balloon program-- all information that will help us to continue to strengthen our ability to track these kinds of objects.