Chinese Spy Balloon is Down, But So Much Remains Up in the Air

"Oh, look! A balloon! So nice of Xi to send me a gift!"

By Al Perrotta Published on February 5, 2023

So China has floated a balloon that experts suggest may be a dry run for a devastating EMP platform, and Joe Biden let it wander the country like the Griswalds on vacation. What gives?

Now, after eight days of wanderin’ … I’m talking about Biden as much as I’m talking about the balloon … the spy balloon has been shot down. But serious questions and concerns remain hanging.

A Crisis Begins … Thanks to a Sharp-Eyed Citizen 

The Stream’s military writer Tom Sileo first wrote Thursday night about the spotting of the balloon over Montana near Malmstrom AFB which houses Minutemen III ballistic missiles. The Pentagon said at the time the decision was made not to knock the spy balloon down because of concerns over possible civilian casualties, and the “potential for debris and property damage.”

Nobody really bought that. It’s Montana. If you can’t bring a balloon down in vast and sparsely populated Montana without hitting someone you can’t really call yourself a military.

Gov. Greg Gianforte is also miffed that the DoD didn’t bother to tell him a huge Chinese spy balloon was heading his way. “If it was up to Montanans, this thing would have been taken out of the sky the moment it entered our sovereign airspace,” Gianforte told Fox News.

Not like the thing was a surprise. The U.S. military had been tracking the balloon since it reached the Alaskan Aleutian Islands January 28. The only reason the public knows about the spy balloon was because a sharp-eyed citizen named Chase Doak spotted it. 

If We’d Tried a Stunt Like That?

Said Gov. Gianforte, “If the Americans had flown a spy balloon over China, do you think you’d still be in the air? Of course not. We should have taken action. Unfortunately, we’ve emboldened our enemy today.” (Heck, China threatened to shoot down Nancy Pelosi’s plane just because it was flying to Taiwan.)

Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder described it as a “high altitude surveillance balloon.” “Once the balloon was detected,” said Ryder, “the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”

The patriot in me says, “Good. They jammed or fried the thing’s ability to send and receive.”

The news observer in me says, “Unfortunately, we’ve just learned how horrible Joe Biden is at protecting sensitive information.”

The Balloon Finally Shot Down

Eight days it wandered over our sensitive sites. There’s no telling the intelligence it gathered, despite the Pentagon’s very vague assurances.

Finally on Saturday, after a huge outcry and with the State of the Union a mere three days away, the U.S. military shot the balloon down just off the coast of South Carolina. An F-22 splashed it with one shot, and now the Navy is securing the seven-square mile debris field and recovery efforts are under way.

The official story is Joe Biden ordered the spy balloon shot down Wednesday, but the military experts convinced him it would be better to wait until the balloon was no longer over land. In addition to protecting people on the ground, keeping it afloat gave the military the “added benefit” of studying the craft. “We learned technical things about this balloon and its surveillance capabilities. And I suspect if we manage to recover some of the debris, we’ll learn even more,” an unnamed senior official told reporters.

So according to the Biden DoD, they “protected against” the balloon collecting intelligence, kept it afloat to study it and keep folks on the ground safe, then splashed it once it was off shore. Sounds nice, but that’s not how critics see it.

Former Trump National Security Advisor Tony Schaffer complains the U.S. waited “until (the spy balloon)’s mission was over.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers blasted the Administration for trying to keep the spy balloon a secret.

It’s clear the Biden administration had hoped to hide this national security failure from Congress and the American people. Now, the White House must provide answers about why they decided to allow a CCP spy balloon to cross the United States and what damage to our national security occurred from this decision. The United States must project strength to deter China – this failure is another example of weakness by the Biden administration.”

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green was more direct, saying it was “indefensible that this threat was eliminated only after great public outcry and the damage to U.S. national security and American sovereignty was already done.”

Yes, we look like impotent idiots. Worse, we may be looking at a potential catastrophe.

Was it An Eye in the Sky or an EMP Platform?

Some security and military experts worry this balloon and similar Chinese balloons now spotted in other countries are not just eyes in the sky. They tell the Washington Examiner these balloons may well be platforms for EMPs and we’re witnessing a “dry run.”

An EMP is an Electromagnetic Pulse weapon. You set off a small nuclear EMP high in the sky and you fry the electronics of the impacted area. It’d knock out almost all conventional power and the entire internet would be down for months. As Mind Matters detailed last year, this would include “communications networks and the computers and controllers that run everything from traffic lights and emergency vehicles to weather instruments and satellites.”

Though the blast itself won’t cause many casualties, a 2014 congressional report predicted the effects of a fried electric grid could kill millions.

What Kind of Dry Run Was This?

Former Air Force Major David Stuckenberg is one of the leading experts on EMPs. He wrote a 2015 report for the American Leadership & Policy Foundation about the dangers. As Washington Examiner says, you don’t want to read the report before bedtime, because it’ll give you nightmares.

On Friday, Stuckenberg told the newspaper we may be looking at a precursor to that nightmare and need to wake up.  “China’s recent balloon flyover of the United States is clearly a provocative and aggressive act. It was most likely a type of dry run meant to send a strategic message to the USA. We must not take this for granted.”

His 2015 report concluded, “As guardians of our nation’s future, planners must leave no stone unturned in the effort to deprive America’s enemies of low cost, lowtech, high-consequence military options.”

EMPs are dangerous. Catastrophically dangerous. We’ve known that for decades. We’ve known of this threat and our vulnerability. Unfortunately we’ve done a woefully inadequate job hardening our electronic infrastructure from it.

Oh, to have a military more concerned with EMPs than CRT.

Oh, to have a Secretary of Treasury more interested in securing our infrastructure than complaining about racist roads. 

Oh, to have a Secretary of Energy more interested in hardening our electric grid than hiring gender-fluid kleptomaniacs.

The Politics of It

Joe Biden is being slammed for his apparent “weakness” in not taking out the balloon for eight days and only after the outcry.

Cancelling Tony Blinken’s visit to China isn’t tough. It’s a show. The spy balloon entered U.S. airspace January 28. Biden (they say) ordered the balloon shot down Wednesday. Yet it was only on Friday that Blinken cancelled the trip. Only after the balloon became public. After the outcry. If not for citizen Doak, Blinken would likely be sipping tea with Xi right now. And the Navy wouldn’t be scraping pieces of debris from the ocean floor.

Besides, Blinken used to get a $1 million a year from the Chinese-funded Penn Biden Center. Even if he’s not in their country, he’s in their pocket.

That goes for Biden too. You can’t have your son making multi-million dollar paydays from the Chinese on your name, including investments in CCP energy companies, without the appearance — let alone reality — of being compromised. What’s the Big Guy to do?

Not Exactly Building Trust These Days

Now, it is possible Biden and his military did play this smart. That they really did neutralize the thing’s spy capabilities, so the best course of action really was to let it float out to sea before popping it open. (Particularly if there was evidence or worries biological or chemical weapons may be on board. It’s not like China hasn’t dropped a deadly virus on us already.)

However, this is also the same Biden and military that made a disaster out of Afghanistan, gutted the military and put wokeness ahead of preparedness. It’s also the same Joe Biden that led Obama Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to say “He’s been wrong on every major foreign policy decision for 40 years.”

Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Besides that, Biden’s left our borders wide open to hostile forces. Why not our skies?

Trump: Shoot the Balloon Down!

Former President Donald Trump had a simple message: “Shoot the balloon down!” Monica Crowley was typical of widespread reaction.


You know what’s telling? If you did a poll, virtually everyone, including Democrats, would agree with her.

I don’t care how much TDS you are suffering from, you were thinking that. You may hate yourself for thinking it, but you’re thinking it. No way Trump let’s a Chinese spy balloon hang out over ICBM silos and traverse the country for eight days.

Again, right now, we do not know all the Pentagon knows. So it’s possible there is good reason this balloon wasn’t taken down earlier … before it became a threat, before it became a global exhibition of further American weakness.

In any event, though the balloon is on the floor of the Atlantic, it might as well be hanging over the Capitol for Tuesday’s State of the Union. It’s certainly going to overshadow whatever victory lap over the shoot-down, happy talk on the economy and bitter talk about MAGA Republicans Biden’s speechwriters have planned.

Republicans are demanding answers. The American people deserve those answers. 

Perhaps the GOP should show up at the speech sporting red balloons. Balloons marked “Brought to you by the Big Guy.”


Al Perrotta is the Managing Editor of The Stream, chief barista for The Brew and co-author, with John Zmirak, of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration. You can follow him at @StreamingAl at GETTRGabParler, and now at TRUTH Social.

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