More than a month after the Biden administration allowed a suspected Chinese spy balloon to travel across the continental United States before shooting it down over the Atlantic Ocean, new allegations are surfacing about the events leading up to the incident.
According to U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), the 11th Air Force called on the Pentagon to bring down the object before it ever flew into U.S. airspace, but the request was denied.
During a speech at the Hudson Institute on Thursday, he indicated that the Air Force unit stationed in his state had been tracking the balloon over a long distance and wanted clearance to engage F-22 and F-35 fighter jets.
“Our Alaska commanders requested permission to shoot it down,” Sullivan said. “Was denied. I’m not sure that’s public, but it’s a fact.”
He said the request came on Jan. 28, which is the same day the vessel first entered American airspace. From there, it drifted into Canadian airspace and back into the U.S. three days later.
A top Pentagon spokesperson previously asserted that the North American Aerospace Defense Command instructed the 11th Air Force to simply monitor the situation. According to Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, NORAD Commander Gen. Glen VanHerck determined that the balloon “did not present an immediate military threat.”
Although the Defense Department has not provided a full public account regarding why the balloon was allowed to enter U.S. airspace and fly over various high-security locations on its journey from Alaska to South Carolina, officials indicated that concerns about potential injury to people on the ground led to the decision not to shoot it down.
That excuse rang hollow for a number of Biden administration critics, including U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT).
Congressman Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL representing Montana, tells Jon Scott the U.S. should have shot down the Chinese spy balloon over the Aleutian Islands or over his home state. He also says the U.S. should shoot down the other spy balloon floating over Latin America too.
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“What the Pentagon has said was we didn’t want to shoot it down because of the chances of civilian casualties,” he explained. “This is a balloon that didn’t get here overnight. It was over the Aleutian chain, which is one of the most sparsely populated places on the planet.”
Shortly after a civilian spotted the balloon flying over his state, Montana State Auditor Troy Downing similarly dismissed the Pentagon’s reasoning.
“Sending a spy balloon is clearly an intended provocation to show the American people that, under this administration, China can invade our airspace with impunity,” he said.