Report: Spy Balloon Was 'Crammed' With US-Made Tech

Investigators believe there's no way it was just a weather balloon, insiders say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2023 11:18 AM CDT
Report: Chinese Spy Balloon Used American Parts
The balloon floats over Billings, Montana, on Feb. 1.   (Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP, File)

The Wall Street Journal describes the investigation into the Chinese spy balloon shot down in February as "closely held"—but it has found some officials willing to discuss preliminary findings. The officials say analysis by defense and intelligence agencies has found that the balloon was "crammed with commercially available US gear, some of it for sale online," per the Journal, along with more specialized Chinese equipment to transmit photos and other information, indicating that it was indeed a spy balloon and not a weather balloon, as China claims.

The officials say the balloon collected data during the eight days over the US and Canada, but that info wasn't sent back to China. It's not clear whether that was due to a malfunction or the countermeasures the Pentagon says were taken to stop it from transmitting information. Investigators have traced purchase orders for some of the equipment on the balloon, which President Biden described last week as having "two boxcars full of spy equipment." Officials tell ABC News that investigators are trying to determine whether any of the US-made equipment was sold to China illegally.

The Journal reports that officials believe China didn't plan for the balloon to cross the US, but its operators tried to take "advantage of the path they found themselves on." Biden said last week that Chinese leader Xi Jinping didn't know it was there. "It was blown off course up through Alaska and then down through the United States," he said. "And he didn't know about it. When it got shot down, he was very embarrassed." (More spy balloon stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.