2022 military intelligence report mentioned Trump-era balloon sightings: report

A 2022 military intelligence report mentioned sightings of high-altitude Chinese balloons during the Trump administration, CNN reported Monday.

The report from last April, entitled “People’s Republic of China High-Altitude Balloon,” stated that a Chinese surveillance balloon circumnavigated the world in 2019, during the Trump administration, and went past Hawaii and Florida in the process.

CNN noted that this is the first indication that the U.S. military was aware of previous Chinese spy balloons before one crossed the U.S. last week, but the timing of when officials became aware of the Chinese balloons is not clear based on the documents reviewed.

The news of the report comes after former President Trump denied that Chinese spy balloons flew over the country multiple times during his time in office. Former Trump national security advisers John Bolton and Robert O’Brien both also said they had not heard of any balloon incidents, and former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe agreed.

But a senior U.S. defense official said last week that spy balloons belonging to the Chinese government crossed over U.S. territory briefly at least three times during the Trump administration. This came after Republicans criticized the Biden administration for a few days over its delay in shooting down the balloon while it was over U.S. territory.

The Biden administration has said it decided against shooting the latest balloon down while it was over land because it feared falling debris could hurt people on the ground. It instead shot the balloon down on Saturday after it crossed over the Atlantic Ocean.

CNN reported that China “launched and controlled” the previous balloon in 2019, adding that the military intelligence report stated that China had deployed multiple high-altitude balloons that could fly for months at a time at between 65,000 and 328,000 feet.

Gen. Glen VanHerck, the leader of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters on Monday that the Defense Department was not aware of the previous balloons when they were in the air but instead learned of them through other means of collecting intelligence.

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