Spy balloon stops a rollin’

The Chinese spy balloon entered the territory of the United States a week ago yesterday. Thanks to the observant eye of Chase Doak, we learned of it as it made its way over Montana this past Thursday. The Biden administration intended to keep it a secret while it made its way across the United States and Secretary of State Antony Blinken headed off to meet the friends of the Biden family in Beijing. Exposed, the Chinese advised it was a weather balloon that had wandered off course. Sorry about that.

After following a path that took it over our intercontinental ballistic missile bases, an Air Force F-22 shot it down yesterday afternoon six miles off the Carolina coastline. Absent the public exposure, I infer the Biden administration would have let bygones be bygones. Note the timing of the shootdown decision reported by Politico (with no mention of its significance): “On Friday night, Biden was briefed on the plan to shoot down the balloon and approved it, according to a senior administration official.”

The New York post drily observes: “By the time the white orb — the size of three school buses — deflated and fell into the ocean, it had spent eight days in the country and covered more than 4,000 miles of American territory.”

Politico credits the administration: “While the Pentagon worked to bring down the balloon, officials also took steps to protect against the balloon’s ability to collect sensitive information, the [senior administration official] said. Its flight path took it over some sensitive military installations.” Somebody noticed.

Politico looks at the upside as touted by a senior administration official: “The balloon’s flight was also of intelligence value to the United States, the official noted.” The official is quoted but not identified: “I can’t go into more detail but we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment.” Hey, maybe the humiliation was worth it.

The AP story quotes the Chinese statement. The Chinese are unhappy about the shootdown. Their statement condemning it as “excessive” seems a tad ungrateful to me, but we understand. They want to leave the door open to their friends in the administration.

This episode raises a multitude of obvious questions with respect to which we can be sure that the administration will hold the answers as close to its vest as possible.

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