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US official says Chinese balloon was capable of "conducting signals intelligence collection operations": Report
Washington: The suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down by the US military over the Atlantic Ocean was capable of "conducting signals intelligence collection operations," CNN reported citing a senior US State Department official. The official further said that the Chinese balloon had flown over "more than 40 countries across five continents."
The official has said that the US administration has determined that the Chinese balloon was operating with electronic surveillance technology capable of monitoring US communications. As per the news report, signals intelligence means information that is collected by electronic means, like communications and radars. "We know the PRC used these balloons for surveillance," CNN quoted the official as saying.
"High-resolution imagery from U-2 flybys revealed that the high-altitude balloon was capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations," the official further added.
The US State Department official said the balloon was part of a Chinese fleet developed to carry out "surveillance operations" with a manufacturer linked to China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), as per the CNN report. The official suggested that the US is eyeing sanctions for the presence of the balloon in US airspace which the administration has repeatedly termed a "violation of US sovereignty and international law."
The official said that the balloon's equipment was "clearly for intelligence surveillance and inconsistent with the equipment onboard weather conditions. According to the official, the balloon had "multiple antennas to include an array likely capable of gathering and geo-locating communications, as per the CNN report. Notably, a rescue operation to secure debris from the balloon is ongoing with analysis continuing at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) laboratory in Virginia.
"The high-altitude balloons' equipment was clearly for intelligence surveillance and inconsistent with the equipment onboard weather balloons. It had multiple antennas to include an array likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications," CNN quoted an official as saying.
"It was equipped with solar panels large enough to produce the required power to operate multiple active intelligence collection sensors," the official added.
According to CNN, a senior official this week said, "We could track the exact path of the balloon and ensure no activities or sensitive unencrypted comms would be conducted in its vicinity." The official stated that the US military took immediate steps to protect "against the balloon's collection of sensitive information, mitigating any intelligence value to the PRC." (ANI)
Meanwhile, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that the US will look at continuing the efforts to expose and address China's larger surveillance activities that pose a threat to its security and to its allies. Speaking at a briefing, Ned Price said that the US exploring taking action against Chinese entities linked to the People's Liberation Army that supported the balloon's incursion into US airspace.
"We are always going to protect our interests, we did so in the tactical case of this balloon. We also said in the release that you mentioned we are exploring taking an action against PRC entities linked to the PLA that supported the balloon's incursion into US airspace," Ned Price said.
"We will look at continuing these broader efforts to expose and to address PRC's larger surveillance activities that pose a threat to our national security and that to our allies and partners as well," he added. (ANI)