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The Chinese spy balloon was gathering intel on sensitive US military sites and sending it to Beijing in real-time: report

Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Feb. 5, 2023.Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Feb. 5, 2023.

Petty Officer 1st Class Tyler Thompson

  • The Chinese balloon flying over the US was sending data to Beijing in real-time, NBC News reported.
  • It was collecting mostly electronic signals from military bases, two unnamed US officials told NBC.
  • The Pentagon said on Monday it was unable to confirm NBC’s reporting.

The Chinese balloon that flew across the US earlier this year was transmitting intelligence from military bases to Beijing in real-time, NBC News reported.

The balloon gathered mostly electronic signals, instead of photos, as it passed over the sensitive installations, the outlet reported on Monday, citing two senior US officials and one former senior Biden administration official. All three officials were not named by NBC News.

The officials said the electronic signals collected by the balloon can include communications between base personnel or signals from weapons systems, per NBC News.

While moving over some of these military sites, the balloon would sometimes fly in a figure-eight formation, the officials told the outlet.

The balloon traveled from Alaska and Canada to the coast of South Carolina for a week, before it was shot down by the US military on February 4. China’s Foreign Ministry has claimed that the balloon was a civilian vessel, but the Pentagon said it was “most certainly” sent for surveillance reasons.

The US previously said it waited to shoot down the balloon because officials believed there was a low threat of it gathering valuable intelligence for Beijing.

The Pentagon said it could not confirm the NBC News report, a spokesperson said at a Monday press briefing.

“I cannot confirm that there was real-time transmission from the balloon back to the PRC at this time,” said Sabrina Singh, the Pentagon’s deputy press secretary.

“We’re still doing an assessment of what the intel was that China was able to gather but we do know that the steps that we took provided little additive value to what they’ve been able to collect on from satellites before,” she added.

Singh also declined to say which military bases the balloon flew over. However, she confirmed that the balloon was “able to be maneuvered and purposely driven along its track.”

The Pentagon and the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment sent outside regular business hours. The Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry also did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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