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Chinese spy balloon a year later, Congress and America deserve the truth

OpinionChinese spy balloon a year later, Congress and America deserve the truth

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A year ago, a slow-moving object was sighted in the skies over Montana, drifting eastward. Numerous people on the ground took to social media and displayed photos and video of what was, undeniably, a UFO. 

It didn’t remain unidentified for long. Within a day, the Biden administration hastily conceded the object was a Chinese spy balloon. Over the next three days, the Biden White House remained paralyzed with inaction, surfacing only occasionally to issue numerous statements that had to be later clarified and corrected. 

As the balloon continued its odyssey across the continental United States, we learned that its intelligence payload was the size of two buses and was powered by a remote-controlled motor. It was only shot down after it had completed its journey across our country and was over the Atlantic Ocean. 


Now, one year later, that is still about all we have learned and, despite pledging transparency, the Biden administration has done what it excels at: cover up its embarrassments, deny congressional oversight, and pretend you have no right to know. 

The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down

The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the coast in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, U.S. February 4, 2023. (Randall Hill/Reuters)

Like always, this administration has other priorities than American national security. In this case, it was engagement with China. When the balloon first appeared, the administration was in the middle of a full-blown rapprochement with the Chinese Communist Party, and it wasn’t going to let borders, or sovereignty, or even clear espionage get in the way.  

That’s why the administration initially attempted to hide from the public the fact that it knew the balloon was sailing across Montana — it had been tracked for days. But you didn’t get to hear about that either. 

What has been publicly reported is that the administration went into overdrive to “turn the page” on the balloon incident. On February 6, the deputy assistant secretary of state for China and Taiwan informed staff by email that “Guidance from S (Secretary of State) is to push non-balloon actions to the right so we can focus on symmetric and calibrated response. We can revisit other actions in a few weeks.” 

The administration next paused “competitive actions” against the PRC from human rights sanctions and export controls and has yet to restart them. It then sent Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Kritenbrink to Beijing on the Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre as preparations were underway to set up a parade of Biden Cabinet-level meetings in Beijing. And it doubled down on efforts to reach a one-sided climate deal with China. 


At the same time, the administration continued to deceive. The Pentagon brazenly told reporters that the balloon did not transmit intelligence. We’ve subsequently learned that it did, and used U.S. cell towers to do it. And it used U.S. equipment to conduct its surveillance. 

A year later, despite the rapid recovery of the balloon’s debris and subsequent analysis by the FBI, Congress and the public remain in the dark about what the administration really knows. 

Balloon recovery

U.S. forces haul debris from China’s surveillance balloon onto a boat off the coast of South Carolina. A military jet that shot down an object over Lake Huron, Michigan missed on its first attempt. (US Fleet Forces)

I sit on both the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over relations with China, and the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the FBI. The administration has yet to brief members of either committee — in open or classified setting — about the preliminary findings or outcome of any investigation. 


It’s time for the administration to come clean about what was undeniably the most provocative act of espionage on our homeland in decades – even if it upsets the Biden team’s grand China strategy. 

One year is a long time for the American people to wait for the truth from this administration. And it is long enough. 



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