The Chinese balloon that flew across the United States earlier this year was able to gather intelligence from several U.S. military sites and transmit it back to Beijing in real time, despite the Biden administration’s attempts to block it, according to a report from NBC News.
The high-altitude balloon was able to make multiple trips over some of the sites before it was shot down on Feb. 4, at times flying in a figure-eight formation, NBC said, citing two current senior U.S. officials and one former senior administration official.
The FBI continues to assess parts of the Chinese spy balloon recovered after it was shot down in February, Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokesperson, said Monday.
The Pentagon maintains that measures it took to prevent China from acquiring intelligence from sensitive military sites mitigated the balloon’s effectiveness, Singh said.
The balloon provided “little additive value” beyond what China already has, she said. China also operates spy satellites.
National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby declined to confirm the balloon’s movements but told reporters that it “absolutely had self-maneuvering capability…from remote operators.”
“That wasn’t a new development for this balloon, and it didn’t come as a surprise to us that it had that capability,” he said.
Kirby said the U.S. is still conducting its analysis of what was recovered.
The spy balloon entered U.S. airspace near the Aleutian Islands in late January, crossed into Canada and re-entered the continental United States. Among the sensitive sites it passed by were nuclear missile fields in Montana.
A U.S. F-22 fighter warplane shot down the balloon off the shore of South Carolina. Military officials waited until it was over water, they have said, to prevent it falling on people or buildings.