Jim Hartman: Biden’s shootdowns: One spy balloon and 3 ‘objects’

Jim Hartman

Jim Hartman

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For over a week, a Chinese surveillance balloon was permitted to float across the territorial U.S. and linger over important military installations.

It was first detected Jan. 28 over the Aleutian Islands. The balloon traversed Alaska, parts of Canada, re-entered the U.S. in Idaho and passed over a swath of the U.S. until it was shot down off South Carolina’s coast Feb 4.

The balloon was 200 feet tall and had a payload weighing more than 2,000 pounds.

President Biden’s justification for the long delay in shooting it down was the risk of falling debris.

The White House kept its knowledge of the balloon secret until it was spotted by civilians on the ground in Billings, Montana, making disclosure unavoidable. Multiple eyewitness reports and local newspaper photos documented the Chinese spy balloon hovering in place on Feb. 1 and 2.

Billings is home to Malmstrom Air Force Base’s 341st missile wing and site of Minuteman III missile silos.

The first public acknowledgement of the spy balloon came from the Pentagon late Feb. 3, saying it was expected to remain over U.S. airspace “for a few days.”

Would the Biden administration have told the American public about the balloon if it hadn’t been seen by civilians in Billings?

Biden came in for blistering bipartisan criticism for the delay in taking action.

“I don’t want a damn balloon going across the United States when we could have taken it down over the Aleutian Islands,” Montana’s Democratic Sen. Jon Tester said.

An angry Lisa Murkowski, Alaska’s Republican senator, demanded to know why the Chinese spy balloon wasn’t shot down over Alaska.

“We need to be clear and unequivocal that we don’t tolerate this, period,” Murkowski fumed.

This incident is only the latest in a series of increasingly brazen violations of U.S. sovereignty.

Disturbingly, the Pentagon admitted at least four Chinese spy balloons had previously entered U.S. airspace undetected at the time.

Three of the incidents occurred during the Trump administration, and one other during the Biden administration, the Pentagon said. The Trump-era balloon intrusions were discovered only recently after the fact from information gathered by the intelligence community.

Last February, a high-altitude balloon flew near the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the site of a missile test range and other military facilities, but the U.S. opted not to shoot it down.

An undetected balloon would be able to deliver a nuclear explosive that could detonate above the ground and cripple the U.S. electrical grid.

China has ramped up its overall surveillance efforts in recent years, including operating a fleet of high-altitude balloons on five continents.

Biden’s tardy response to the Chinese spy balloon was a little “trigger happy,” as House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Mike Turner put it.

Biden ordered the shoot down of three other mysterious “objects” in three days over Alaska, Canada and Lake Huron “out of an abundance of caution.”

The “objects” were likely balloons connected to private companies or scientific research.

They were taken down by Sidewinder missiles that cost over $400,000 each, with one of the “objects” shot down reportedly being a $12 hobby balloon.

Chinese officials mocked the U.S. response and China’s defense minister refused to answer a crisis line call from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

FBI Director Christopher Ray says Chinese intelligence “steals staggering amounts of information in the U.S.”

Add to this the building of military bases in the South China Sea, the takeover of Hong Kong, fighter jets flying over Taiwan, whose capture is an explicit Chinese goal, make China our malign adversary.

In belated White House remarks Feb. 16, Biden offered little of substance on China’s audacious spy mission. Appearing weak, he shuffled off after eight minutes without taking questions.

Biden needs to wake-up from his fog that China is merely our benign competitor.

E-mail Jim Hartman at lawdocman1@aol.com.


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