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Washington Says ‘Spy Balloon’ Made With ‘Commercially Available’ American Technology

Washington sources told WSJ the balloon had a propellor and could maneuver and hover in the near space region near the exosphere. Yet, Joe Biden told a California campaign fundraiser the balloon "was blown off course up through Alaska."
Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: June 29, 2023
WSJ claims the Chinese spy balloon was made with US equipment.
A U.S. Navy handout of the remnants of the alleged Chinese “spy balloon” the Biden administration shot down with a missile. Anonymous Washington officials told The Wall Street Journal the balloon was made with commercially available American technology. Yet Joe Biden also claims that China lost control of the device when it was flying over Alaska. (Image: Ryan Seelbach/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

The source is “U.S. officials” and the messenger is The Wall Street Journal, who joined forces to announce in the early hours of June 29 that the February “spy balloon,” a weather balloon said to have been equipped with cameras and sensors and originating from Mainland China, was made with American parts.

The Journal’s officials were paraphrased as leaking an internal “closely held investigation” that had found “the balloon was crammed with commercially available U.S. gear, some of it for sale online, and interspersed with more specialized Chinese sensors and other equipment to collect photos, video and other information to transmit to China.”

They added, “With a propeller, the craft could maneuver and loiter over a site for long periods, depending on weather.”

Sources were further paraphrased as calling the balloon an “inventive attempt by Beijing at surveillance.”

In recapping the saga for readers, WSJ’s choice of words was notable in that it stated, “Only in recent weeks have the Biden administration and the Communist leadership begun a fragile reset, with both suggesting they want to consign the balloon to the past.”


In the vast majority of cases, English language establishment media glosses over or completely avoids the fact that the Chinese government is still the Chinese Communist Party.

But the covariance between the CCP and the narrative surrounding the spy balloon is notable when the story has been used to directly implicate President Xi Jinping.

In February reporting on the debacle, CNN said that, “Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader in decades, may not have been aware of the mission.”

The statement was based on an “assessment” that “was communicated to American lawmakers in briefings,” CNN stated, supposing that it would signal “a significant lack of coordination within the Chinese system at a fraught period of China-US relations.”

While that may have been February, this is June 20: U.S. President Joe Biden told a California fundraiser for his 2024 reelection campaign that Xi is a “dictator” who doesn’t have control of his forces.

“The reason why Xi Jinping got very upset in terms of when I shot that balloon down with two box cars full of spy equipment is he didn’t know it was there,” Biden said, adding, “That’s a great embarrassment for dictators…when they didn’t know what happened.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom was in attendance for the statements, which Biden declined to retract days later while answering questions during a press event when meeting with President of India Narendra Modi.

Biden’s remarks came mere days after Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Beijing to personally meet with Xi for diplomatic talks.

The allegations come on the back of June 28 reports by Reuters that Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen “hopes” to travel to China to meet with the Xi administration to “reestablish contact.”

“There are a new group of leaders, we need to get to know one another,” she said.

Yellen added, “And we need to discuss our disagreements with one another so that we don’t have misunderstandings, don’t misunderstand one another’s intentions.”

But The Wall Street Journal, in its position as the largest print newspaper in America, can be something of a harbinger for Washington, as it showed on June 28 when it published an article shortly after the U.S. equities market closed for the day that the Biden administration plans to blacklist sales of all NVIDIA processors to Mainland China in an effort to hamper its artificial intelligence industry.

The officials were also paraphrased as telling WSJ that “parts” of the military and the Defense Intelligence Agency “wanted to put on public display parts of the balloon’s debris.”

The move would be something of a trophy feature, similar to that of husks of Iranian ballistic missiles which are publicly displayed at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in D.C. and on the DOD’s website.

Leaks to the media on the spy balloon are significant in that the Biden administration has apparently kept Congress in the dark.

On June 15, Senators Roger Wicker (MS) and Marco Rubio (FL), the two top ranking Republicans on the Senate Armed Forces Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote to Biden, stating:

“While four months have passed since a Chinese surveillance balloon was allowed to fly across the United States, your administration has yet to provide the American people a full accounting of how this spy platform was allowed to traverse across sovereign U.S. territory, what the balloon carried, and what it collected during its mission,” Fox News reported.

The letter was co-signed by 17 other GOP Senators, and similar missives were deployed to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haynes, and The White House itself.

Reporting on the letter by The Hill noted that the text also implicated the CCP itself, and not just the concept of “Beijing” or the Chinese government, when it stated, “The People’s Republic of China, under the control of the Chinese Communist Party, has only increased its brazen threats to our national security.”

The Journal noted that no branch of the government it requested comment from for the story would provide any.

The officials were paraphrased as stating that while Congress and the public have been under blackout on the spy balloon saga, information had been “circulating” since early March within American spy agencies and the Pentagon “in case another balloon appeared over U.S. airspace.”

The report also alleges that not only was President Xi unaware of the balloon, but China’s technicians lost control of the device.

“One of the officials and others in the Biden administration agree,” WSJ wrote, “that the vessel likely traveled on a course operators didn’t originally intend.”

Joe Biden said during his California fundraiser, “It was blown off course up through Alaska and then down through the United States.”