Pentagon leaks confirm US officials knew of more Chinese spy balloons

Why did they not report them to the public?
Loukia Papadopoulos
A representational image of the Chinese balloon
A representational image of the Chinese balloon

Chase Doak/Wikimedia Commons  

New documents that were allegedly leaked by Massachusetts air national guard member Jack Teixeira and first reported by the Washington Post are revealing that U.S. officials knew about up to four Chinese surveillance balloons.

This is three more than the one that flew over the continental U.S. and was shot down in February. Another balloon was spotted over a US carrier strike group located in the Pacific Ocean and was never reported.

Meanwhile, the third balloon crashed into the South China Sea. In addition, more than a week after it had been shut down, authorities still had not identified several sensors and antennas of the continental U.S. balloon. 

It has now been revealed that intelligence officials classify the balloon that was shot down as “Killeen-23‘’.

Teixeira, 21, was arrested on Thursday and charged under the Espionage Act as he is suspected of leaking several classified documents on a Discord chatroom.

The documents he is accused of having illegally shared include verbatim transcripts and classified documents that were photographed and shared.

According to the official documents, the other balloons were called “Bulger-21” and “Accardo-21.” It still is not clear, however, whether these balloons were the same ones that flew over the U.S. carrier group or crashed into the South China Sea.

A U.S. intelligence official who remained anonymous reported to the Post that the balloons were named alphabetically after infamous criminals.

Advanced surveillance technology

The leaks included reports from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) that indicated that Killeen-23 could generate enough power to operate “any” surveillance technology such as a radar. Meanwhile, Bulger-21 and Accardo-21 boasted advanced surveillance equipment while the latter contained a “foil-lined gimbaled” sensor.

No comments were supplied by the Pentagon and the office of the director of National Intelligence.

The Post further noted that Chinese military researchers have for years written about the advantages of deploying synthetic aperture radar capabilities on “near space” vehicles, quoting an article published in the official newspaper of the Chinese military: the PLA Daily. 

In September 2020, the report explained how airships and balloons could be loaded with radar and photoelectric surveillance equipment to detect targets for strikes.

The Biden administration was heavily attacked by Republicans in February for its slow response to the Chinese surveillance balloon. Politicians argued that it allowed the Chinese government additional time to spy on the nation, putting Americans in danger.