by Kevin Samson, Activist Post:
Today it came to light that a suspected Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon has been hovering over the northwestern part of the U.S. for several days. NBC initially reported:
The high-altitude balloon was spotted over Billings, Montana, on Wednesday. It flew over the Aleutian Islands, through Canada, and into Montana. A senior defense official said the balloon is still over the U.S. but declined to say where it is now.
Just one hour ago the Defense Department finally released an official statement on the matter, as well as a Q&A with media that can be read in full below. Officials made it clear that the balloon will not be shot down, but it remains under real-time surveillance.
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While officials stress that this type of activity has been observed before, this is the longest duration over the continental U.S. so far and might indicate a further escalation of tensions and a jockeying for strategic postions between the U.S. and China. It bears watching…
BRIGADIER GENERAL PAT RYDER: Good evening, everyone. Brigadier General Pat Ryder here, the Pentagon press secretary. So thank you very much for joining us a little bit later in the day. I’m going to go over a couple of ground rules first. I’ll provide you then with an on-the-record statement. And then I’ll turn it over our senior defense official.
So first, I’m going to read you an on-the-record statement. This is from Brigadier General Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary.
“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now. The U.S. government, to include NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely. The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic, and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”
STAFF: And with that, we’ll go ahead now and revert to on-background. And you can attribute this to a senior defense official.
SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Thanks, Pat.
Hey, everybody. Thanks for joining us late. So a couple of things up top, and then happy to take a few questions. I’ll let Pat moderate on that. But so a few things.
First, we are confident that this high-altitude surveillance balloon belongs to the PRC. As was said at the top, instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years, including prior to this administration. In this instance, President Biden was briefed and asked for military options.
Secretary Austin convened senior DoD leadership yesterday, even as he was on the road in the Philippines. It was the strong recommendation by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Milley, and the commander of NORTHCOM, General VanHerck, not to take kinetic action due to the risk to safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field.
Currently we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective. But we are taking steps, nevertheless, to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.
We are also tracking what abilities it could have in gaining insights, and continue to monitor the balloon as it is over the continental United States.
And so with that, let me pause and I’ll take your questions.
Pat, you want to run the show?
STAFF: Yes, sir. Thank you.
All right, first we’ll go to Tara Copp, Associated Press.