Have you ever heard of a Chinese spy balloon entering U.S. airspace? It happened earlier this year and the Biden administration was aware of it but tried to hide it from the American public. On February 1, a Billings, Montana resident spotted the balloon and the Pentagon was forced to go public about it.
The Biden administration had to consider the political implications of not dealing with the spy balloon, which was floating near the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, home to intercontinental ballistic missile silos. President Joe Biden had argued for shooting the object down, but was urged against doing so by his most senior military advisers, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley — who reportedly “insisted that such a move would put civilians at risk.”
The Pentagon briefed reporters on a background conference call, and said there was consideration of shooting down the balloon as it transited over sparsely populated areas in Montana, but “just couldn’t buy down the risk enough to feel comfortable recommending shooting it down yesterday.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken then finally canceled his planned trip to China on Thursday, six days after the balloon first entered U.S. airspace.
The Biden administration was then forced to brief the “Gang of Eight” — the top leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees — about the incident. On Saturday, the Pentagon announced that it had shot down the balloon as it reached the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of South Carolina. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), a native Montanan, said the administration should have shot the balloon down over Montana while House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) said in a statement that the Biden administration had “hoped to hide this national security failure from Congress and the American people.”
It’s hard to believe that a Chinese spy balloon was able to enter U.S. airspace and the Biden administration tried to keep it a secret. The Pentagon eventually shot it down, but only after the balloon had been detected by a resident in Montana and reported by the local news. It’s clear that the Biden administration had to consider the political implications of not dealing with the spy balloon, but it’s also clear that they could have done more to prevent it from entering U.S. airspace in the first place.