They may sit on key committees overseeing America’s security, but neither Sens. Maggie Hassan nor Jeanne Shaheen would comment on disturbing new details about the Chinese spy balloon scandal revealed on Monday.
NBC News reports the Chinese spy balloon that traveled across U.S. skies for days earlier this year “was able to gather intelligence from several sensitive American military sites, despite the Biden administration’s efforts to block it from doing so, according to two current senior U.S. officials and one former senior administration official.”
On February 16, President Joe Biden told the nation, “Because we knew its path, we were able to protect sensitive sites against collection.” But the new report says the balloon was actually navigated across the U.S. and Biden’s claim was false.
“China was able to control the balloon so it could make multiple passes over some of the sites (at times flying figure-eight formations) and transmit the information it collected back to Beijing in real-time.”
White House sources would neither confirm nor deny the report of real-time intelligence transmissions on Monday.
Noah Rothman at National Review reminded readers Monday of the extent of the known Chinese ballon activity at the time.
“The balloon that sped across the U.S. was one of two simultaneous unmanned Chinese incursions across the continental American airspace. The second traveled over Central America, providing the Chinese with a live look at the breadth of America’s air-defense zones,” Rothman wrote. “U.S. Northern Command later revealed that China took down this southern balloon after it transited its course over Latin America. But what intelligence was it gathering and why?”
The violation of America’s airspace by a hostile government, the new details of extensive intelligence gathering, and the White House’s less-than-accurate statements have inspired calls for additional oversight. Former Rep. Mike Rogers, who served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told NHJournal Monday that Congress needs to act.
“Congress must get to the bottom of the decision-making that created a situation where the entire world watched the Chinese Communist Party conduct an intelligence operation in broad daylight over the entire United States while the administration held press conferences saying ‘there is nothing to see here.’ Inaction or delayed action cannot and must not be the norm, especially when our adversaries will test our security again,” Rogers said.
And yet New Hampshire’s two senators were a ‘no comment’ when contacted by NHJournal regarding the new Chinese spy balloon report. That is notable because Hassan sits on the Homeland Security Committee, and Shaheen serves on both Foreign Relations and Armed Services — all committees charged with protecting U.S. national security and interests abroad.
Other Senate Democrats declined to remain silent.
“We knew all along that China’s invasion of our airspace was no accident,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “There’s nothing more important than keeping America safe, and I’ll keep holding the Biden Administration accountable to ensure Montanans’ freedom and privacy are protected.”
The new revelations also raise questions about why the Biden administration decided to shoot down three other objects over the U.S. in a flurry of jet fighter attacks. The objects, the White House claimed afterward, were almost certainly harmless.
For Hassan, silence regarding Homeland Security issues has emerged as a pattern. For two years, the U.S.-Mexico border has been in crisis with record-setting numbers of illegal crossings, but she declined to answer repeated questions about specific policy proposals to secure the border. The silence continues even as illegal crossings of America’s northern border surged 846 percent — more than half of it in the sector that includes New Hampshire.
Gov. Chris Sununu put $1.5 million in his budget proposal to “establish a northern border alliance program … to focus on reducing the instance of crimes and illicit activity occurring within 25 air miles from the Canadian border.” It’s an effort opposed by New Hampshire Democrats.
Meanwhile, Rogers — a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate speaking to the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women on Tuesday — says nobody should be surprised by the new revelations regarding the spy balloon.
“The Chinese balloon was doing exactly what we knew it was doing all along—spying unchallenged on some of America’s most sensitive sites. The notion that the White House was jamming or countering it was either naïve or purposefully misleading to the American people. Our response displayed nothing but weakness and only served to embolden our adversaries,” Rogers said.