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.
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