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Updated December 24th, 2023 at 15:25 IST

Biden administration wanted to keep the spy balloon saga a secret, says ex-top official

Months after the Chinese spy balloon saga, a former senior US official revealed that the Biden administration was planning to keep the whole ordeal a secret.

Reported by: Bhagyasree Sengupta
US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden | Image:AP
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Washington: Months after the Chinese spy balloon saga jolted the United States, a former senior US official revealed that the Biden administration was planning to keep the whole ordeal a secret. During an interview with the NBC News, the anonymous US official stated that the Biden government wanted to keep the intrusion secret with an intension to study the balloon an thoroughly analyse the situation. However, the plan to keep it a secret went downhill after civilians spotted a massive white orb flying over Montana. 

“Before it was spotted publicly, there was the intention to study it and let it pass over and not ever tell anyone about it,” a former senior US official told NBC News on Friday, nearly 11 months after the balloon penetrated the American airspace. The American official claimed that both Biden and US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin did not pay heed to the matter and were too distracted with other commitments. On January 27, when the North American Aerospace Defense Command saw the huge spycraft enter US airspace, Commander General Glen VanHerck called Gen. Mark Milley, President Biden’s top military adviser and briefed him about the whole situation. 

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However, Biden himself was not informed about the matter until January 31 and the American Defence Secretary was too “focused” on a diplomatic trip to Asia to pay heed. “They weren’t paying attention,” the former senior official remarked. By the time the White House was aware of the situation the massive balloon which was equipped with solar panels and a payload of surveillance devices had traversed half of Canada and re-entered the US over Montana. Overall the Biden administration remained silent on the matter until several Americans spotted the orb in the sky. 

Biden administration defends its delayed response

Meanwhile, a senior official from the Biden administration denied the allegations that any attempts were made to hide the whole saga from the public or the US congress. He noted that the official took time to publicly react on the matter to protect revelations of matters related to sensitive intelligence capabilities. "To the extent any of this was kept quiet at all, that was in large part to protect intel equities related to finding and tracking them," the staffer told NBC News. “There was no intention to keep this from Congress at any point,” the official added. 

According to NBC News, Biden official started to lament over their response after the news of the spy balloon hovering over the American skies spread like a wildfire all around the world. The former US official claimed that the spy balloon's reputational consequences for China and US relations posed a far graver threat than the balloon entering US airspace. “It caused so many problems,” the official exclaimed. After a lengthy mayhem, the US official eventually shot down the spycraft over open water off the coast of South Carolina. 

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Published December 24th, 2023 at 15:25 IST

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