By Jack Phillips
A growing number of Republicans are calling on the federal government to provide more information about a Chinese balloon that traversed across the United States earlier this year before U.S. Air Force planes shot it down.
A report from NBC News claimed the Chinese balloon was able to transmit data back to Beijing in real time despite the U.S. government’s efforts to prevent it from doing so—a disclosure that could deepen Republican criticism of President Joe Biden for waiting for the balloon to reach a safe location before shooting it down. NBC cited two alleged current senior U.S. officials and one former senior administration official.
In response, Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) told Newsmax that he believes the federal government is “lying to the American people” about the spy balloon. “President Biden told the American people that the Chinese spy balloon wasn’t a security breach. It’s not the first time President Biden was wrong on foreign policy, and unfortunately for our country, it won’t be the last,” he wrote on Twitter.
“It went over military bases collecting information, which we all knew it was collecting information. And they’re like, ‘Nothing to worry about here or see here,’” the lawmaker told Just the News on April 5.
“And then even Democrats started being like, ‘Why are we not shooting this down?’ Then after it had traversed the entire continental United States, gotten all this sensitive information, sent it back to Beijing, then they shoot it down over the Atlantic,” added Steube, a U.S. Army veteran.
Meanwhile, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that “we have consistently learned more from press reports about the Chinese surveillance balloon than we have from administration officials” in recent days.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Wicker wrote that the Pentagon should provide answers to questions in an unclassified manner.
“These revelations clearly demonstrate that the administration made an unacceptable mistake. I will not abandon my oversight efforts to discover the full range of information related to this event, and I intend to hold this administration accountable. It is critical that Congress also explore the capability and protocol improvements at the Department of Defense that are necessary to prevent something like this failure from ever happening again,” he added.
The Epoch Times has contacted the Pentagon for comment.
White House Responds
The White House and the Pentagon told reporters this week they could not confirm the NBC report, while officials were still analyzing debris collected from the balloon after it was shot down on Feb. 4. A U.S. F-22 Raptor shot down the aircraft off the coast of South Carolina days after the balloon was spotted in northern Montana.
“I could not confirm that there was real-time transmission from the balloon back to (China) at this time,” Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh told Reuters, adding, “That’s something we’re analyzing right now.”
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) spokespeople have alleged that the balloon was intended for civilian purposes, although the regime has provided no evidence to back up its claims. Pentagon and Biden administration officials said the balloon had surveillance equipment on board.
There have also been reports that U.S. government officials believe the high-altitude balloon was controlled by Beijing and was able to maneuver as it flew over the United States, at times steering left or right. But U.S. officials and Biden have tried to downplay the vessel’s impact on national security and said it took measures to limit the balloon’s capacity to obtain sensitive information about military sites.
The Chinese balloon incident prompted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a planned visit to China and further strained relations between Washington and Beijing. The episode caused an uproar in Washington and prompted the U.S. military to search the skies for other objects that were not being captured on radar, including the shooting down of a yet-to-be-identified object over Lake Huron.
The FBI said it had taken the lead in the analysis. On Feb. 17, the United States confirmed it had successfully concluded recovery efforts off South Carolina to collect sensors and other debris from the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon.
Reuters contributed to this report.