Chinese Spy Balloon Gathered U.S. Military Data for China, U.S. Officials Say

China maintains that the balloon was not for spying and that it strayed off course, but the U.S. says China remotely controlled its path.

By Hudson Crozier

What’s new: The Chinese balloon that flew in U.S. airspace for several days last February gathered intelligence from several military bases and sent it to the Chinese government before the Pentagon shot it down, current and former Biden administration officials told NBC News.

What did it get? Officials are still analyzing the remains of the balloon and what exact information it gathered. The Pentagon previously said that the balloon had “limited additive value” for China beyond what it already uses to spy on the U.S., such as satellites.

Conflicting stories: The White House and the Pentagon wouldn’t confirm the NBC report, but an anonymous source reiterated to CNN that it’s true. Military officials have disagreed with each other on several aspects of the balloon incident, including whether the U.S. took too long to shoot the balloon down.

Where it all stands now: China maintains that the balloon was not for spying and that it strayed off course, but the U.S. says China remotely controlled its path. The ongoing controversy adds to an already tense period between the two nations amid the bipartisan push to ban TikTok, China’s growing relationship with Russia, and predictions that the U.S. could one day go to war with China over Taiwan.

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