Who can forget in late February when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sent an intelligence-collecting balloon over the United States? While the balloon leisurely meandered above Air Force bases across the entire United States, the Defense Department assured us that “the US government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information,” as reported by Liberty Nation. But that story has changed: Government officials now admit that the balloon was able to maneuver and spend time over US military installations, gathering intelligence from several sensitive sites, despite the Biden administration’s efforts to block it.
Pentagon Assurances Over Balloon Not Credible
NBC reporters Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee now claim that the balloon’s instrumentation allowed it to “transmit the information it collected back to Beijing in real time.” The electronic emissions could have come from various sources, including US weapon systems and official and personal communications from base personnel. This may have included base command and control information and how critical communications flow. How problematic was the Chinese balloon-based intelligence breach? Foreign aerospace specialist and former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Rebekah Koffler told Fox News Digital:
“This brazen intelligence operation mounted by Beijing … almost certainly enabled the Chinese military to glean critical insights into the Biden Administration’s policy and posture towards China, and President Biden’s ‘red lines,’ when it comes to foreign aerospace assets, breaching of US sovereign airspace. These insights are very useful for China in developing deterrence strategies for dissuading the United States from intervening in China’s future aggressive operations against Taiwan.”
However, when Pentagon Deputy Spokesperson Sabrina Singh was asked in a press briefing about the loss of sensitive information, she said, “We do know that the balloon was able to be maneuvered and purposely driven along its track but not going to get into specific sites it was able to hover over. But what we did do is take precautionary steps to limit the intelligence value that it would be able to collect.” But, when questioned about the CCP’s capability to collect and transmit in real-time, Singh declined to answer.
Balloon or No Balloon
Like it or not, the United States is in a cold war with China. The PRC’s balloon flyover is the obvious evidence. “We are now witnessing some of the effects of a decision made years ago by China to use every means and medium of intelligence-gathering at its disposal against the West,” Calder Walton, Harvard Kennedy School historian, wrote in his Foreign Policy article “China Has Been Waging a Decades-Long, All-Out Spy War.” A country doesn’t behave like that if it is just a “pacing challenge,” as the Pentagon likes to describe China.
So why does Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley sound like there’s nothing to worry about? “I think there’s a lot of rhetoric in China, and a lot of rhetoric elsewhere, to include the United States, that could create the perception that war is right around the corner,” Milley told Defense One. “I’d prefer to go back to what Teddy Roosevelt said, which is you know, ‘speak softly, carry a big stick’ sort of thing. So: Have our military really, really strong (and) lower the rhetoric a little bit with the temperature.” What Milley forgets is that when Roosevelt talked about a big stick, adversaries were not confused about his will to use it.
Whether it’s dealing with Russia, Iran, North Korea, or China, the Biden administration has not demonstrated a will to stand tall. China purposely sent an intelligence-gathering balloon over the United States to gauge the consequences. After dithering for eight days, President Joe Biden decided to shoot it down. The CCP got its answer.
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