State Dept: Chinese Balloon Was Collecting Intelligence

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The Chinese balloon that crossed the U.S. was outfitted with antennas likely capable of collecting communications, a senior State Department official said Thursday, adding that the Biden administration is preparing to take action against China’s surveillance program.

Providing details the U.S. has gathered since tracking and shooting down the balloon, the official said the balloon was also equipped with large solar panels capable of powering an array of intelligence-collection sensors. The manufacturer of the balloon has a direct relationship with the Chinese military, the official added.

The new details come as intelligence, military and diplomatic officials prepared to brief members of the House and Senate Thursday about the Chinese balloon downed last week.

The Washington Post reports:

The State Department on Thursday released several data points on China’s high-altitude balloon surveillance program, declassifying information collected by U.S. U-2 spy planes and other sources to expose what it’s calling a sophisticated effort to surveil “more than 40 countries across 5 continents.”

The U.S. government release said that high resolution imagery captured during flybys by U-2 spy planes revealed that the balloon was capable of signals intelligence operations far beyond the abilities of a weather balloon, boasting “multiple antennas to include an array likely capable of collecting and geolocating communications,” said the official.

The State Department said China’s balloon spy operations are carried out by the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, using balloons that are manufactured by a firm that has a direct relationship with China’s military, according to the PLA’s procurement documents.