The Chinese spy balloon that traversed across the continental U.S. before President Joe Biden had it shot down collected intelligence from sensitive military sites, at times doing figure eight formations to hover over certain sites according to a report.
The balloon gathered intelligence from “several” military sites, despite the Biden administration insisting that measures were taken to prevent that from happening, NBC News reported Monday, citing two current senior U.S. officials and one former senior administration official.
According to the report, China was able to control the balloon so it could make multiple passes over some of the sites, including flying figure eight formations, and transmitting intelligence back to China in real time.
That intelligence was mostly electronic signals from weapons systems or communications from base personnel, the officials told NBC News.
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The balloon first entered U.S. airspace over the Aleutian island chain in Alaska on January 28, and allegedly entered Canada before reentering the U.S. over Idaho on January 31 and flying over Malmstrom Air Force Base, home to U.S. nuclear assets.
The balloon first entered U.S. airspace over Alaska on Jan. 28, according to the Biden administration, which said it was tracking it as it moved. Within the next four days, the balloon was flying over Montana — specifically Malmstrom Air Force Base, where the U.S. stores nuclear assets.
The balloon was not shot down until February 4 — after it had made a several day journey across the states and potentially over other sensitive military sites and exited over South Carolina to the Atlantic Ocean.
President Joe Biden claimed he ordered it shot down on February 1, but that military officials recommended said the risk from potential debris was too high.
However, Bloomberg reported on February 4 that the Biden administration had hoped to hide its existence from the public so as not to ruin Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s planned trip to Beijing.
The current and former officials told NBC News China could have gathered “much more intelligence” if the Biden administration did not “move around potential targets” and obscure the balloon’s ability to pick up their electronic signals by stopping them from broadcasting or emitting signals.