All 3 objects looked different, and those shot down over Alaska and Canada may have had payloads, officials say

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1 min ago

First missile shot at object Sunday over Lake Huron missed, sources say

From CNN’s Natasha Bertrand, Oren Liebermann and Haley Britzky

General Glen VanHerck, Commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command
General Glen VanHerck, Commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/FILE)

The first missile launched by an F-16 fighter jet at the object near Lake Huron, Michigan, on Sunday did not hit the target, three people briefed on the matter told CNN. 

The Pentagon and White House had not previously disclosed that the first missile did not strike the target. But NORTHCOM and NORAD Commander Gen. Glen VanHerck told reporters on Sunday that acquiring and targeting the object was difficult because of its small size.

A radar-guided missile would have a “lower probability of success” because of the small size of the object, which also made it difficult to use the aircraft’s gun to shoot it down. “The pilots in each situation felt that that was really unachievable because of the size,” VanHerck said.

The pilots opted to use short-range AIM-9X Sidewinders, which are capable of seeing the heat contrast between an object and the surrounding area. But even so, the first missile failed to hit its target, sources said. It is not clear what happened to the missile.

“In each case, we have taken extreme caution to ensure that we limit potential collateral damage,” VanHerck said Sunday, though he did not acknowledge the missed shot.

CNN has reached out to the Pentagon for comment

Fox News was the first to report that the first missile missed.

35 min ago

“Significant” portion of Chinese spy balloon wreckage has been recovered, defense official says

From CNN’s Oren Liebermann

Sailors prepare material recovered in the Atlantic Ocean from a high-altitude balloon for transport to federal agents at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek on February 10.
Sailors prepare material recovered in the Atlantic Ocean from a high-altitude balloon for transport to federal agents at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek on February 10. (Petty Officer 1st Class Kris Lin/US Navy)

A “significant” portion of the wreckage of the Chinese spy balloon has been recovered in about 50 feet of water off the coast of South Carolina, according to a defense official. 

A salvage ship equipped with a crane arrived in the area on Friday and began raising debris from the sea floor as weather permitted, including some of the structure of the payload carried under the balloon and the electronics.

The payload carried by the balloon weighed approximately 2,000 pounds and was the size of three school buses. The sensitive components will be handed over to the FBI for further investigation, according to the official.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Monday that crews have collected “a fair amount of debris” from the Chinese surveillance balloon. It was shot down last weekend on February 4.

The White House declined to place a timeline on further recovery efforts, especially given the variable weather conditions that have limited the ability of Navy divers to get in the water.

“It could take a long time, given the sea state and weather conditions and the degree to which when we have to protect the safety of the divers,” John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said on Monday. 

ABC was first to report on the progress of the balloon recovery efforts.

1 hr 19 min ago

Lawmakers frustrated over lack of information from Biden administration on unidentified objects

From CNN’s Manu Raju, Jessica Dean, Nicky Robertson

Lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to divulge more information about the downed objects, saying they have received little so far.

“I think there ought to be more transparency — and I believe it can be offered in a way that protects national security and sources and methods,” Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Monday.

Sen. Gary Peters, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he spoke three times with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over the weekend along with Pentagon officials. He said he learned nothing more than what has already been reported by the news media.

“We still have questions outstanding as to what we know,” he said. “We’ll be asking probing questions tomorrow when they come in a classified setting,” Peters added, noting his calls over the weekend were unclassified.

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who chairs the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said he doesn’t believe there’s a protocol for how the US handles these objects and he plans to use the appropriations process to find out “what they knew, when they knew it and what the plan is.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Marco Rubio, a Republican, said he thinks “the communication disclosure has been poor” and called for President Joe Biden to address the unidentified objects.

“I think they [the American people] need to hear from the president, maybe as simple as saying ‘you know, we don’t know what they are, we’re doing everything we can to sort of determine, and this is why we shot them down,’” Rubio said.

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney warned against getting “too excited” about balloons and unidentified objects when there are still so many questions about what they are. 

“I think we get a little hyped up over objects that don’t quite understand what they are — balloons, weather balloons — and let’s find out what they are before we get too excited,” he said.

Another Republican, Sen. Todd Young, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said there’s “a lot more to learn” before assessing if the shooting down of the objects was handled properly.

1 hr 46 min ago

Virginia senators request more information on unidentified objects and say public should not be concerned

From CNN’s Nicky Robertson and Ali Zaslav

Sens. Tim Kaine, left, and Mark Warner talk while departing from an intelligence briefing on the Chinese spy balloon on February 9.
Sens. Tim Kaine, left, and Mark Warner talk while departing from an intelligence briefing on the Chinese spy balloon on February 9. (Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats from Virginia, have each given their take on the unidentified objects shot down over North American air space this week.

Warner, the Senate Intelligence Committee chair, said he is hopeful he will get more information in Tuesday’s classified briefing on objects.

“I’m not satisfied yet, I think we’re going to get more of a brief tomorrow, I’m not sure in terms of even the collection of materials, what have we found,” Warner told reporters Monday. 

Warner said he has questions about how objects are identified. 

“I’m trying to get an answer about whether there is an appropriate notification system,” Warner said about the unidentified objects,” he said.

When asked if President Joe Biden should address the public on the unidentified objects, Warner said, “let’s get through tomorrow.”

Kaine, who sits on the armed services and foreign relations committees, said he doesn’t think Americans should be worried in the wake of the Chinese spy balloon and unknown flying objects.

“People shouldn’t be lying awake in bed worried at night,” he said Monday.

Asked how concerned should Americans be in terms of the threat level, Kaine said, “these are not posing dangers to civilians. Now they would have posed dangers to civilian aircraft, and that’s why they were taken down … We got to get answers, but I mean, I’m not frightened for America.”

Kaine said he is supportive, so far, of the Biden administration’s response: “They’ve been doing a good job so far, but I do have a lot of questions.”

3 hr 7 min ago

Pentagon memo says object shot down over Canada was a “small, metallic balloon”

From CNN’s Zachary Cohen and Jeremy Herb

The unidentified flying object shot down in Canadian airspace on Saturday appeared to be a “small, metallic balloon with a tethered payload below it,” according to a Pentagon memo sent to lawmakers on Monday and obtained by CNN.  

The memo offers the first official details of one of the three objects shot down in recent days that was previously described as a “cylindrical object.” The object crossed near “US sensitive sites” before it was shot down, the memo said. 

Defense officials also wrote that the object shot down over Lake Huron in Michigan on Sunday, “subsequently slowly descended” into the water after impact.  

The new details in the memo come as lawmakers on Capitol Hill are pressing to gain a better understanding of why the Biden administration shot down three unidentified objects in three days following the takedown of the Chinese spy balloon that traversed the US the previous weekend. 

A US official told CNN this past weekend there has been caution inside the administration on the pilot descriptions of the unidentified objects due to the circumstances in which the objects were viewed.  

“These objects did not closely resemble and were much smaller than the PRC (People’s Republic of China) balloon and we will not definitively characterize them until we can recover the debris, which we are working on,” a National Security Council spokesperson said. 

The memo said the object shot down over Alaska on Friday was the “size of a small car” and not similar to the Chinese balloon shot off the coast of South Carolina. 

“We have no further details about the object at this time, including the full scope of its capabilities, its purpose, or its origin,” the Pentagon memo said. “It should not be assumed that the events of the past few days are connected.”

3 hr 25 min ago

John Bolton, national security adviser under Trump, will be briefed on China surveillance Wednesday

From CNN’s Kaitlan Collins

In this August 2022 photo, former National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks at a panel hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran – U.S. Representative Office (NCRI-US) at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, DC.
In this August 2022 photo, former National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks at a panel hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran – U.S. Representative Office (NCRI-US) at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

John Bolton, who served as former President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, will be briefed by the Biden administration about Chinese surveillance balloons on Wednesday, CNN is told. The briefing is expected to be conducted by the office of the director of national intelligence.  

Former Trump Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and Trump’s other former national security adviser Robert O’Brien were also offered to be briefed Wednesday, but it remains to be seen if they will accept, according to a source.

Former Pentagon chief Mark Esper was also offered a briefing that day but is working on scheduling one for a different date. 

This comes after Biden officials said that they would contact some former Trump officials about briefings after the US downed a Chinese surveillance balloon and had learned that China had also sent spy balloons into US airspace while they were in office. 

Some context: On Monday, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby said the asset was part of the People’s Republic of China high-altitude balloon program for intelligence gathering.

Kirby said the Chinese balloon program was operating during the Trump administration, but the objects were not detected then.

3 hr 47 min ago

Schumer says senators only have “preliminary details” on unidentified objects

From CNN’s Ali Zaslav

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. (Senate TV)

Senators “only have preliminary details” about the unidentified objects shot down over North American airspace over the weekend, according to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, but more information is expected to be shared with lawmakers at a briefing Tuesday. 

Schumer, in remarks on the Senate floor Monday, commended President Joe Biden and the service members “who acted quickly to shoot these objects down before they dangered American aircraft or civilians.”

“Unlike the balloon shot down last week, these objects demanded a swift response to ensure they didn’t get in the way of commercial jets or pose any other risk on the ground,” he said. “The American people can rest assured that our defense and intelligence agencies are focused like a laser to determine where these objects came from, and what their capabilities were.”

The New York Democrat added that Congress plans to conduct a “bipartisan examination” into the objects, including the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down last week. He also said he hopes to also figure out why the US didn’t detect these assets sooner.

The Tuesday briefing is in addition to the scheduled full-Senate classified briefing on China on Wednesday, Schumer said.

3 hr 52 min ago

House intelligence chairman says lack of briefing on unidentified objects is “absolutely frustrating”

From CNN’s Nicky Robertson

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Turner called the lack of an administration briefing on the unidentified objects shot down last week over North American airspace “absolutely frustrating.” 

“We’re the committee that is supposed to be receiving the intelligence that’s being generated, the notifications from the administration to Congress that are official about these types of threats, and we’re not hearing anything,” Turner said in an interview on Fox News. 

There was a classified briefing for all House members last week on the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down over US waters the previous weekend. 

Since then, an unidentified object was shot down in Alaska airspace on Friday. Another object was shot down over northern Canada on Saturday, and a third over Lake Huron on Sunday afternoon, the Pentagon said.

Turner said he feels that the “administration is not being forthcoming with Congress,” claiming that members on both sides of the aisle feel that way.

5 hr 1 min ago

US still working to recover debris from unidentified objects that were shot down, defense secretary says

From CNN’s Haley Britzky

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday that the US is still working to recover debris from three unidentified objects shot down in North American airspace over the weekend. 

“We’re going to confirm what they are once we’ve collected the debris,” Austin said. “But to answer your question, we’ve not recovered any debris from the three most recent shootdowns.” 

The US military shot down three unidentified objects in as many days over the weekend — two in US airspace, and one in Canadian airspace.

Recovery efforts so far: Austin said Monday that crews have collected “a fair amount of debris” from a Chinese surveillance balloon shot down on Feb. 4, but weather has impacted the search for one object’s debris in Alaska.

Near Lake Huron, Austin said, US Northern Command, the US Coast Guard, and the FBI are ”beginning operations to locate debris in close partnership with the Canadians.”

Austin emphasized that the three objects shot down over the weekend “are very different” from what the US saw traverse the country last week. 

“I want to be clear the three objects taken down this weekend are very different from what we were talking about last week,” he said. “We knew exactly what that was — a (People’s Republic of China) PRC surveillance balloon.” 

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