Claim: President Biden was too slow to act in response to the Chinese balloon, allowing it to complete its mission before shooting it down.
Rating: This claim is FALSE. The Biden White House was aware of the balloon as soon as it entered the U.S. but did not shoot it down over land for safety and so that the balloon could be recovered.
On January 28th, a white balloon the size of three buses was spotted hovering over Montana by sharp-eyed citizens. The balloon was suspected to be gathering intelligence over American national security sites right before Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was to make a trip to Beijing.
President Joe Biden has received criticism from both sides of the aisle for his administration’s lack of transparency on the situation. He emphasized that “If any object presents a threat to the safety and security of the American people, I will take it down,” and that his team will devise sharper rules on how to deal with such unidentified objects moving forward.
Over the past few years, there has been hundreds of sightings of unidentified aerial objects. The data confirms that Chinese balloons have entered twice during the Biden administration and three during the Trump administration.
Some online spectators have criticized Biden for being slow to act, alleging that letting the balloon move from Montana to South Carolina over the course of several days allowed it to complete its mission, whatever that may be. On the contrary, U.S. officials were aware of the balloon as early as Saturday, January 28, as it floated over Alaska, according to a timeline of events compiled by Politico.
At the time, it was considered not to be a military threat nor an intelligence risk given the time and location of the sighting. When it re-entered U.S. airspace over Idaho, President Biden asked if it could be shot down—a full day before it entered the public eye when it was spotted by Montana citizens. However, the Pentagon objected to shooting it down, fearing civilian casualties if the balloon exploded in the air.
Instead, they tracked the balloon and took measures to prevent it from collecting any sensitive data in its path. It was eventually shot down by F-22s over the coast of South Carolina and was found to be equipped with high-tech equipment designed to collect communications signals and other sensitive information. A majority of the spy balloon’s pieces were collected by the Navy and FBI for investigation.
The balloon was detected as soon as it entered Alaskan airspace and the White House made a decision as soon as it entered the contiguous U.S. to not risk shooting it down, instead working to conceal or move sensitive information out of its path. The FBI wanted to ensure that no civilians were injured in shooting down the balloon as well as desiring to recover pieces of the balloon for investigation, so it was only shot down after crossing the United States. The claim that Biden allowed the balloon to complete its mission is FALSE.