We have struggled to following the evolving leaks and statements from the Biden administration regarding the Chinese spy balloon. In the adjacent post we note one set. This morning the Associated Press has a total of five reporters on the administration’s claim of credit for getting on top of it: “White House: Improved surveillance caught Chinese balloon.” It bears on the story of previous balloon overflights that I discuss in that post.
This is how the AP story opens:
U.S. officials said Monday that improvements ordered by President Joe Biden to strengthen defenses against Chinese espionage helped to identify last week’s spy balloon — and to determine that similar flights were conducted at multiple points during the Trump administration.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that after Biden took office, the U.S. “enhanced our surveillance of our territorial airspace, we enhanced our capacity to be able to detect things that the Trump administration was unable to detect.”
Further down the story picks up the thread:
Sullivan, speaking at an event hosted by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, said as part of the surveillance improvements since Biden took office, “we were able to go back and look at the historical patterns” and uncover “multiple instances” during the Trump administration in which Chinese surveillance balloons traversed American airspace and territory.
Several Trump administration officials have have said they didn’t learn of Chinese spy balloons during their tenures.
Before Monday, U.S. officials had said that at least three times during the Trump administration and at least one other time during Biden’s time as president balloons have crossed American airspace, but not for this long. In those instances, the United States determined the balloons belonged to China only after they had left U.S. airspace, said Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of U.S. Northern Command.
“I will tell you that we did not detect those threats,” VanHerck said of his military command. “And that’s a domain awareness gap that we have to figure out.” He added that the U.S. intelligence community “after the fact” informed his command about the balloons.
Recall that the Biden administration said nothing about the balloon that traversed the United States last week until it was discovered by Chase Doak over Montana. Recall that Secretary Blinken’s trip to China was not postponed until the public disclosure. There is more to come as we fill in the gaps and piece together the evolving stories presented by the administration.