Schumer: Two Unidentified Objects Believed to be Balloons

February 12, 2023

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Sunday that the U.S. government believes two objects recently shot down over U.S. and Canadian airspace were balloons.

The Senator, who said he’d been briefed by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan Saturday night, made the declaration Sunday morning after the White House revealed on Friday that the Pentagon had shot down an object over U.S. territory, seven days after the revelation of a Chinese surveillance balloon, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed on Saturday that the U.S. shot down a third object over his nation’s airspace.

“They believe they were, yes,” Schumer replied to ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos’ question, “Were these balloons Friday and Saturday night?” 

“But much smaller than the the first one,” Schumer continued. “Both of those, one over Canada, one over Alaska, were at 40,000 feet. Immediately it was determined that that’s a danger to commercial aircraft which also fly at 40,000 feet. And so the second one, in cooperation with the Canadians, the first one with the Americans, took it down. And that’s appropriate.”

The initial balloon, which was shot down by the Pentagon last Saturday, was reported to have been flying at an altitude of about 60,000 feet.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also revealed Saturday that airspace over Montana was closed on Saturday evening “to support Defense Department activities,” but it was quickly reopened.

“The first balloon, there was a much different rationale which I think was the appropriate rationale,” Schumer said on Sunday. “We got enormous intelligence information from surveilling the balloon as it went over the United States.

Chair of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) disagreed with Schumer Sunday on CNN, saying he wished the White House had been more “trigger-happy” regarding the first balloon, which had hovered across the U.S. for several days before the Pentagon shot it down over waters off the coast of South Carolina.

Turner added that the Chinese spy ballon that had been taken down by a U.S. missile last Saturday was a “new, recent development that you have China being so aggressive in entering other countries’ airspace, and doing so for clear intentions to spy with very sophisticated equipment.”

“The very scale of this balloon, and of the technology that was deployed by China in spying on the United States is unprecedented,” he stated, adding that the United States should take these revelations “as a turning point to invest.”

“We need more sophisticated radio systems,” Turner asserted. “We have them, we just don’t have them deployed to protect vital United States. An integrated missile defense system; we helped invest in Israel having an integrated missile defense system. We don’t have one ourselves. This is a turning point where we need to just—this is a threat. How do we respond to it?”

The revelation and downing of the first balloon exacerbated already strained diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was led to postpone indefinitely a diplomatic visit to China last weekend. And on February 7, China refused to take a call from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, which had been meant to ratchet down the tensions. China had stated the U.S. had not created “the proper atmosphere for dialogue” at this time.

On Friday the Biden Administration put restrictions on six Chinese companies that helped build that original balloon.

While the national origin of the two latter objects is not yet known, Stephanopoulos asked Schumer if he thinks the Chinese balloon program “is going to have to be shut down now.”

Schumer replied, “Look, I think the Chinese were humiliated. I think the Chinese were caught lying. And I think it’s a real step back for them, yes. I think they’re probably going to have to get rid of it or do something, because they look really bad.”

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