". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Unidentified Flying Obscurity: Classified Briefing Brings Few Answers

February 15, 2023

The Senate’s classified briefing was supposed to answer questions about China’s spy balloons, Republicans insisted, not create more. And yet, several senators seemed surprised after Tuesday’s meeting with U.S. intelligence and military officials — not by what they learned, but by the growing pile of unknowns, including why so much information is being kept from the American public. “They’re concerned, they’re interested, and they have a right to know why President Biden directed the actions that he did over the last week,” Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) argued

If Americans were disturbed before, China’s latest threat will do little to ease their anxiety. At a Wednesday press conference, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin vowed paybacks for the U.S. response. “China is strongly opposed to this and will take countermeasures against relevant U.S. entities that have undermined our sovereignty and security to firmly safeguard our sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests,” he said — without elaborating on what those “countermeasures” may be.

Wang’s statement stood in stark contrast to Vice President Kamala Harris’s blasé response when reporters asked if the downing of the balloon over U.S. soil would impact diplomatic relations. “I don’t think so, no,” she told Politico. “We seek competition, but not conflict or confrontation.”

Walking back to his office Tuesday, Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) seemed to believe the controversy is a bigger problem than the president’s team is making it. “No, I can’t tell you everything that was said in the briefing, because it was classified. And no, I didn’t take any documents with me when I left — just for the record,” he joked. Then, striking a serious tone, he insisted that the Biden administration needs to get its act together. First, he said, “They need to be able to tell the American people the story of actually what they’re shooting down. We need to get details on that as much as possible. Then we’ve got several other issues. Why now? … Are these things that they’re detecting that they’ve not detected before?”

Let’s not forget, Lankford pointed out, these objects are flying — “not just over the United States — but they’re flying where commercial aircraft fly. So that’s a very significant safety issue just for the American people flying. But it’s also a significant issue just from a security issue. Who’s flying over our space? Currently, no one has stepped out and said, ‘Hey, United States military, you shut down my thing.’”

If this were an experiment or some other permitted commercial activity in our airspace, Lankford argued, U.S. officials would know about it. “So this is some other entity that’s up there flying around in airspace. And it’s extremely important that the Biden administration comes out and says, ‘Here’s what we know.’ … But American security, national security, homeland security is essential for us to be able to maintain. And right now, we’ve still got way more questions than we have answers.”

His Iowa colleague, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), agreed. “I ought to be able to share more with you than I can,” he told Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on “Washington Watch,” but “we have overclassification of too much material.” “The public has a right to know about this.”

It’s equally confusing, Perkins pointed out, because the administration’s messaging isn’t consistent. “On one hand, they’re telling us these are not a threat. Don’t worry about it. It’s okay. Go about your business. Don’t look up. Just keep looking forward. But then on the other hand, they’re saying they don’t know what these objects are. They don’t know where they came from. So how can both statements be true?”

Either way, Grassley said, there are some serious issues that need to be addressed. “What I’ve learned is this: We’ve got a big vacuum in our reconnaissance. It threatens our national security. It compromises our sovereignty. It also is a violation of international law. We ought to know where these crafts come from. We ought to know what they do. And it looks to me like there’s plenty of evidence, because when this was shot down the first time in the Atlantic Ocean, that’s the first one. Then we learn that over the previous four or five years, they go over Guam, over Hawaii, over Florida. And so, it raises a question of whether our surveillance is adequate to protect the nation.”

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.