(Trends Wide) — The transit of three suspected Chinese spy balloons over the US mainland during the administration of former President Donald Trump was only discovered after President Joe Biden took office, a senior administration official told Trends Wide on Sunday.
The official did not say how or when those incidents were discovered.
The official said the intelligence community is prepared to provide briefings to key Trump administration officials about the Chinese surveillance program, which the Biden administration believes has been deployed in countries on five continents over the past few years.
After the Biden administration revealed last week that a suspected Chinese spy balloon was flying over Montana, the Pentagon said similar balloon incidents had occurred during the Trump administration. In response, former Trump administration Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Trends Wide on Friday that he was “shocked” by that statement.
“I never remember anyone walking into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon over the United States,” he said.
Former President Donald Trump also said on Truth Social this week that reports of Chinese balloons transiting the US during his administration were “false information.”
The Biden administration official now says the incidents were not discovered until after the Trump administration had already left. But the official did not say how these incidents were discovered or when.
Trends Wide reported Sunday that the Pentagon had briefed Congress on previous Chinese surveillance balloons during the Trump administration that flew near Texas and Florida.
Representative Michael Waltz confirmed in a statement to Trends Wide that “currently, we understand that there were incursions near Florida and Texas, but we are unclear as to what type of systems were on these balloons or whether these incursions occurred in territorial waters. or flew over the earth.
Another Chinese spy balloon also briefly transited the continental United States at the start of the Biden administration, the senior administration official said. But the balloon that was shot down by the US military on Saturday was unique both in the path it took, from Alaska and Canada to the US, and in the time it spent loitering over sensitive missile sites in Montana, authorities said.
The senior administration official said that with respect to the balloon shot down this Saturday, the analysis of its capabilities is continuing. But, he added, “looking closely at the balloon in flight has given us a better understanding of this Chinese program and further confirmed that its mission was surveillance.”
Republicans have criticized the Biden administration for not shooting down the balloon before it was first noticed over Alaska on January 28. House Republicans are weighing passage of a resolution this week condemning the Biden administration for its handling of the globe, Trends Wide reported Sunday.