A senior Biden administration official is clearing the air.
But the discovery didn’t occur until Biden took office. The explanation follows denials from the former president and his national security team that such events ever happened or that they were briefed.
On Friday, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN that he was “surprised” by the claims.
“I don’t ever recall somebody coming into my office or reading anything that the Chinese had a surveillance balloon above the United States,” he said.
As Fox News reports:
But on Sunday, a senior administration official told Fox News Digital that “U.S. intelligence, not the Biden administration” assesses that “PRC (People’s Republic of China) government surveillance balloons transited the continental U.S. briefly at least three times during the prior administration and once that we know of at the beginning of this administration, but never for this duration of time.”
The official told Fox News that “this information was discovered after the [Trump] administration left.”
“They went undetected,” the official told Fox News Digital.
The official explained that Chinese surveillance balloons are “part of a larger pattern.”
They added that the PRC has a fleet of balloons to conduct surveillance “at the direction of the People’s Liberation Army,” noting that similar balloons have been spotted across five continents in recent years.
“Two things can be true at once: this happened, and it wasn’t detected,” they concluded.
According to the report, at least one balloon flew over Texas and Florida during the Trump administration. Another crashed in Hawaii four months ago.
The official said that the intelligence community is prepared to offer briefings to key Trump administration officials about the Chinese surveillance program, which the Biden administration believes has been deployed in countries across five continents over the last several years.
A senior admin. official also told CNN that another Chinese spy balloon also transited the continental US briefly at the beginning of the Biden administration.