US intelligence agencies have discovered that a Chinese spy balloon that flew over the US in early 2023 used a US internet service provider to send short-lived navigation and location data to China. A US official told CNN this, but the news channel could not identify which internet provider was involved.
The link was one of the ways the US was able to track the balloon's location and gather information about the balloon as it crossed the US, the source said. CNN had previously reported that the balloon was able to communicate with Beijing as it traveled over the United States.
see US shoots down Chinese spy balloon
According to the official, the network connection was not used to send information to China. After the balloon was shot down by the U.S. Air Force on February 4 off the South Carolina coast, the balloon later stored that information, including images and other data, that the U.S. could read.
China continues to claim that the balloon is a weather balloon. But the US ruled at the time that the balloon was part of an extensive surveillance program by the Chinese military. According to US officials, a “fleet of balloons” has flown dozens of missions over at least five continents in recent years.
CNN previously reported that US intelligence agencies believed that Chinese Communist Party leaders had no intention of flying the balloon over the US and had reprimanded the administrators of the surveillance program over the incident.
President Joe Biden also indicated in June that Chinese President Xi Jinping was surprised by the balloon's location. After the US shot down the balloon, Biden told guests at a fundraiser that Xi was “very upset” because “he didn't know the balloon was there.” He then compared Xi to “dictators” who are ashamed of not knowing what's going on.
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