Intelligence officials reportedly watched the suspected Chinese spy balloon from the moment it lifted off.
CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell reported on Tuesday night, “U.S. intelligence watched the high-flying airship as it lifted off near China’s south coast. That means the U.S. military had been tracking it for nearly a week before it entered U.S. airspace, longer than originally known.”
The network’s Nancy Cordes explained officials observed the massive balloon head toward Guam and Hawaii. However, she said, “It took a sharp northward turn, a beeline towards Alaska.”
Watch the video below:
BREAKING: CBS News has learned that U.S. intelligence watched the Chinese spy balloon as it lifted off near China's south coast, meaning the U.S. military had been tracking it for nearly a week before it entered U.S. airspace. pic.twitter.com/oaR5yZIRwm
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) February 15, 2023
The Washington Post also reported U.S. officials tracked the balloon for roughly a week before it entered the country’s airspace.
“Intelligence analysts are unsure whether the apparent deviation was intentional or accidental, but are confident it was intended for surveillance, most likely over U.S. military installations in the Pacific,” the paper explained.
It added, “Either way the incursion into U.S. airspace was a major misstep by the [People’s Liberation Army], prompting a political and diplomatic furor and deeper scrutiny by the United States and its allies of Beijing’s aerial espionage capabilities.”
The Post said officials believe the balloon’s “hovering over sensitive nuclear sites in Montana was no accident, officials said, raising the possibility that even if the balloon were inadvertently blown over the U.S. mainland, Beijing apparently decided to seize the opportunity to try to gather intelligence.”
The new reports about the balloon come over a week after an F-22 shot it with a missile off the coast of South Carolina.
China initially claimed the craft was used for “mainly meteorological” purposes, and it “deviated far from its planned course.”
It is nice to know when the U.S. apparently knew about the balloon. Still, it does raise some questions, were officials really watching this since it lifted off? And why? What would draw their attention to a balloon thousands of miles away?
And if they were tracking the craft for days, why did they not shoot it down sooner? Or would they have shot it down if nobody saw the balloon?
Officials have said they were concerned shooting the balloon down over the continental U.S. could pose a risk to people on the ground.
But if they were tracking it for nearly a week, was there really no area they could find to shoot down the balloon before it got to American airspace without revealing information about our detection capabilities?
So far, the bits and pieces the public has received from various officials have only led to more questions as people find what appear to be inconsistencies.
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