Members of Congress want extra details about excessive altitude objects
A jet flies past a suspected Chinese spy balloon hovering offshore in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, on February 4, 2023.
Randall Hill | Reuters
American F-22 fighter jets shot down three high-altitude objects in airspace over the United States and Canada in the past week, and members of Congress said Sunday they were not briefed on the two latest incidents.
On February 4, the US military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that had been flying through the country for several days. The White House announced that a second object was shot down Friday, flying at about 40,000 feet over Alaska. The following day, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he worked with President Joe Biden to order a US fighter jet to shoot down an “unidentified object” that was flying over the Yukon.
Officials have yet to release many details about the objects shot down on Friday and Saturday, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told ABC’s This Week on Sunday that officials now believe both objects were balloons that were shot down much were smaller than the original spy balloon.
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said he did not know what the two latest items were and that members of Congress had not received any formal briefings about them from the Biden administration.
“That could be because they don’t have any information,” Turner told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “After the press conference we saw, it seems like they took this action without really understanding what they wanted.”
He said there needed to be more engagement between the Biden administration and Congress, and last week’s events suggested the US needed to do a better job of actively defending American airspace.
Turner has criticized the Biden administration for waiting several days to dismantle the suspected Chinese spy balloon and said he would prefer them to be “trigger-happy” than to be explicit.
In a statement Saturday, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Canadian authorities are conducting salvage operations to help both countries learn more about the nature of the object shot down in Canada.
Canada’s Defense Minister Anita Anand said during a news conference on Saturday that it was too early to say whether the object came from China or not.
“According to all indications, this object may be similar to the one shot down off the coast of North Carolina, although smaller and cylindrical,” Anand said.
On Friday, White House spokesman John Kirby was reluctant to characterize the plane shot down over Alaska as a balloon, saying, “We call this an object because that’s the best description we have right now.” He also said, US officials do not yet know which nation or group is responsible.
Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said members of Congress received a top-secret briefing on the Chinese spy balloon, but lawmakers were not directly briefed on the second or third incident. He said he suspects there isn’t much information to share yet as the objects were shot down in remote areas.
“I have real concerns as to why the government hasn’t been more forthcoming with everything they know,” Himes told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.
Himes said there is “a lot of junk” in the air and that it is not difficult for countries, companies or even individuals with resources to put objects in the sky.
“My speculative guess as to why we’re seeing these things in such rapid succession is that we’re really primed to look for them now,” he said.
He urged Americans to resist the assumption that there has been an alien invasion or foul play by another nation until more information can be released. Himes said that without information, people’s fear can lead them into “potentially destructive areas.”
—Associated Press contributed to this report.