Pressure on Biden to reveal information on objects shot down by US military | Joe Biden

Pressure was growing on the Joe Biden White House on Monday to reveal more of what it knows about a series of mysterious objects shot down by the US military over an eight-day period in North American airspace.

A missile strike on Sunday on an unidentified “octagonal” flying object above Lake Huron, Michigan, was the third such instance after the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the South Carolina coast on 4 February, and it is prompting questions from Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Pentagon officials have conceded the extraordinary sequence of events has no precedent during peacetime.

Meanwhile, the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, suggested on Monday the objects were part of a “pattern” of surveillance of the US and its allies by China and Russia, and an American air force commander said the US military had spotted Chinese spy balloons in the Middle East in “the recent past”.

The Florida Republican Marco Rubio, vice-chairperson of the US Senate intelligence committee, claimed that unidentified aircraft had operated “routinely” over restricted American airspace for years.

“This is why I pushed to take this seriously & created a permanent [unidentified aerial phenomenon] taskforce two years ago,” he said in a tweet.

Defense officials hosted an off-camera briefing with reporters late on Sunday but were unable to provide more details of the origin, composition or purpose of the object downed on Biden’s orders by an F-16 fighter jet over Michigan, or similar high-altitude objects shot down over Yukon, Canada, on Saturday and Deadhorse, Alaska, the day before.

The latter two were believed to have a payload, either attached or suspended from them, according to the officials, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The senior air force officer leading the briefing said he could not eliminate the possibility of extraterrestrial activity.

“I’ll let the intel community and the counterintelligence community figure that out. I haven’t ruled out anything at this point,” Gen Glen VanHerck, head of North American airspace defense command (Norad), said.

He added that the Chinese balloon had put authorities on a “heightened alert” but was careful to separate that vessel from the other objects. “We’re calling them objects, not balloons, for a reason,” he said, noting they did not pose any threat to security.

Assistant secretary of defense Melissa Dalton echoed VanHerck, saying: “We have been more closely scrutinizing our airspace at these altitudes, including enhancing our radar, which may at least partly explain the increase in objects that we’ve detected over the past week.”

Work to recover and identify remnants of the downed objects was ongoing, the Pentagon officials told the Sunday briefing, adding that extra vigilance would continue.

Beside aliens, CBS’s veteran national security correspondent, David Martin, on Sunday said officials also apparently could not rule out whether at least some of the unidentified aerial objects which had been shot down were so-called sky trash.

“Sky trash includes balloons that are put up by governments, that are put up by corporations, that are put up by research institutes, and probably just by private individuals, and not for nefarious purposes, but just to collect scientific data,” Martin said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “In the past, the US just hasn’t paid much attention to those balloons, but this Chinese balloon was a gamechanger. And now, certainly, the Biden administration does not feel it can simply let these other objects pass through American airspace.”

The Connecticut congressman Jim Himes expressed frustration with the White House on Sunday in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“I have real concerns about why the administration is not being more forthcoming with everything that it knows,” said Himes, who like Biden is a Democrat.

“In an absence of information, people will fill that gap with anxiety and other stuff. So, I wish the administration was a little quicker to tell us everything that they do know.”

Stoltenberg told reporters on Monday in Brussels that he suspected the incidents were part of an ongoing strategy of spying by Nato’s rivals.

“What we saw over the United States is part of a pattern where China and also Russia are increasing surveillance activities on Nato allies,” he said, urging member nations to maintain vigilance.

Lt Gen Alexus Grynkewich, commander of US air forces central, appeared to back up Stoltenberg’s assessment, telling reporters on Monday that Chinese spy balloons were spotted transiting the Middle East in the recent past, according to

A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry alleged that the US was “overreacting” and accused Washington of repeatedly invading China’s airspace using spy balloons of its own.

“Since last year, the US’s high-altitude balloons have undergone more than 10 illegal flights into Chinese airspace without the approval of the relevant Chinese departments,” Wang Wenbin said, describing China’s reaction as “responsible and professional”.

The White House has denied the accusation.

Meanwhile, Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, is reportedly weighing a meeting with his counterpart in China’s government, Wang Yi, at a three-day security conference in Munich scheduled to begin 17 February, according to Bloomberg. Blinken had postponed what would be the first visit to Beijing by a senior US diplomat since 2018 in response to the Chinese balloon’s intrustion.

The fallout in the US has also extended to the prior presidential administration of Donald Trump. Several of his former officials have denied a Pentagon intelligence report that at least three Chinese spy balloons were detected over the US during Trump’s presidency. One was said to have traversed from Hawaii to Florida in 2019.

“For them to say it happened during the Trump administration – we weren’t aware of it and we would’ve taken immediate action,” Keith Kellogg, a member of Trump’s White House security council, told the Hill.

“If it did happen under President Trump and he was not told, that’s more than just egregious, that’s a dereliction of duty.”

Mark Esper, an ex-Trump defense secretary, has also denied knowing anything about spy balloons during that period.

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