‘Very Disturbing Possibility’ US Manufacturing Helped Build Chinese Spy Balloon, Sen. Hawley Says

‘Very Disturbing Possibility’ US Manufacturing Helped Build Chinese Spy Balloon, Sen. Hawley Says
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, on April 4, 2022. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Frank Fang

Republican senators raised concerns that U.S. manufacturing might have assisted in the construction of the Chinese spy balloon that flew over the continental United States for days before being shot down.

Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) took part in an all-senators classified briefing on Feb. 9, held by officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Pentagon, and the State Department. The agencies held a separate classified briefing for House lawmakers on the same day.

After the briefing, Sullivan told reporters that the question of whether American companies helped build the Chinese balloon was raised, but officials didn’t provide a conclusive response.

“American companies shouldn’t be helping build spy satellites that are used against their own citizens,” Sullivan said, according to Fox News. “Maybe there’s nothing to be said about that … but somebody asked about it, and nobody, nobody in that briefing said, ‘Oh, it’s not a problem.’”

Hawley later confirmed to Fox that the question was asked by a senator during the briefing. The Missouri senator added that he was “concerned” about the possibility of the balloon being built with some form of U.S. help.

“I don’t think there was any definitive answer on that,” Hawley said, before adding it was a “very disturbing possibility.”

The Chinese spy balloon, 200 feet tall and weighing a few thousand pounds, entered the U.S. air defense zone north of the Aleutian Islands on Jan. 28 and flew over Alaska and Canada, before reentering U.S. airspace over Idaho on Jan. 31, according to the Pentagon.
The balloon floated over Montana and several Midwest states, before being shot down by an F-22 fighter jet about six nautical miles off the South Carolina coast on Feb. 4.
While the U.S. military is still trying to recover debris from the balloon, the State Department has already said that the balloon had multiple antennas that could monitor communication signals.


President Joe Biden has been under heavy criticism from Republicans, saying he should have taken more swift action instead of allowing the balloon to stay adrift for days.

However, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Biden made the right call to shoot the balloon down off the South Carolina coast.

“Just left the classified briefing on the PRC balloon. Everything I learned confirms Biden made the right choice,” Murphy wrote on Twitter, referring to the acronym for the People’s Republic of China. “Those that argue we should have shot down the balloon over Alaska are overhyping the threat and underappreciating the intelligence we collected.”

Hawley told Fox that the Biden administration and the Pentagon were not prepared for such an incursion.

“The other thing that it made was crystal clear from this briefing was how unprepared, totally unprepared the administration and frankly, the Pentagon was for this to happen,” Hawley said.

“They’ve already made it public that we’ve known that there have been previous balloon flights over U.S. territories and, of course, the United States in years past,” Hawley continued. “They knew that already, and yet they had nothing prepared to deal with this espionage balloon that came right over the United States.”

Hawley added, “I mean, it’s really it is, it is an incredible, incredible lack of planning. And frankly, I think major, major lapses of judgment.”

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said he left the briefing with “more questions” than when he went in.

“It’s unacceptable & infuriating that the Chinese spy balloon was allowed to hover over MT & our missile bases & was then allowed to travel across the entire US before it was brought down,” Daines posted on Twitter.

Before being shot down, the balloon flew near Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, hovered near Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, and came close to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

Malmstrom is home to some Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, Offutt is the home of the U.S. Strategic Air Command, and Whiteman houses the B-2 stealth bomber.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said his concerns remain with China’s surveillance operations and that Beijing must be held accountable for its actions.

“After receiving a classified briefing today and as new details continue to emerge, I remain deeply concerned by the Chinese government’s surveillance activities and reiterate my call for accountability,” Peters wrote on Twitter.

“We must continue to have the resources and capabilities to detect, deter and intercept any and all incursions that threaten our airspace and national security.” 
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
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