The Chinese balloon that drifted across the United States and precipitated a slew of national security concerns regarding the Asian superpower reportedly used American technology to spy on U.S. citizens.
The American-made equipment helped China capture photos, videos, and other information, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited officials involved in the preliminary investigation into the balloon’s origin and purpose.
Debris from the balloon, which was shot down in early February, reportedly showed investigators that the Chinese device held commercially available U.S. gear, some of it for sale online, along with specialized Chinese sensors and other equipment.
The new information confirms many intelligence experts’ conclusion that the balloon was created for spying, not for weather readings, as Beijing claimed.
“The officials described the Chinese balloon, with its mix of off-the-shelf and specialized equipment, as an inventive attempt by Beijing at surveillance,” the Wall Street Journal wrote.
The balloon entered U.S. airspace on Jan. 28 over Alaska before entering Canadian airspace. The balloon reentered U.S. airspace over Montana on Jan. 31 and was discovered by the public on Feb. 2. It was shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4.
About two months later, a report found that the balloon was able to get intelligence on U.S. military bases during its flight. While officials at the time said the balloon was able to be controlled by and deliver data in real time to the Chinese government, the investigation’s recent findings found that it does not appear the device sent any information back to China.
The spy balloon incident added another dimension to the strained relationship between the U.S. and China. Chinese officials felt the shooting down of the balloon was excessive, while many lawmakers felt President Joe Biden’s indecision to act sooner was catastrophic for national security.