China spy balloon bursts back into headlines as Biden story crumbles: 'They lied about it'

Rep. Greg Steube said that the administration's failure to give America a complete accounting threatens national security.

Published: April 5, 2023 11:39pm

The Chinese spy balloon saga burst back into the headlines this week with revelations that Beijing likely gathered far more intelligence than previously acknowledged, raising fresh questions about the Biden administration's honesty and its decision to allow the device to traverse the entire United States before it was shot down.

Intelligence officials confirmed Monday the Chinese balloon gathered intelligence from several sensitive U.S. military sites and transmitted it back to Beijing, despite the administration’s claims if had blocked the transmissions. The device was clearly controlled, in some cases making multiple passes -- even figure 8s -- over sensitive sites, the officials said.

Members of Congress told Just the News that the administration's false story not only insulted Americans, it risked national security by lulling policymakers into thinking little had been spied on for several weeks.

"It went over military bases collecting information, which we all knew it was collecting information. And they're like 'Nothing to worry about here or see here,'" Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla.,said Wednesday during a wide-ranging interview on the Just the News, No Noise television show.

"And then even Democrats started being like, 'why are we not shooting this down?' Then after it had traversed the entire continental United States, gotten all this sensitive information, sent it back to Beijing, then they shoot it down over the Atlantic," added Steube, an Army veteran who served on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

Fred Fleitz, a retired CIA officer who served as National Security Council chief of staff under President Donald Trump, said career intelligence experts never believed the Biden administration's initial account but it went unchallenged in the news media for weeks.

"It's so amusing because the administration said it was a spy balloon, but claimed it didn't do any spying. Now, as an intelligence officer, I knew that couldn't be true," Fleitz told the John Solomon Reports podcast. Then they had this ridiculous claim that was 'We let the spy balloon fly across the United States because we wanted to spy on the spy balloon.' I knew that wasn't true, either."


When asked about the new intelligence, the Defense Department this week directed reporters to remarks from February in which senior officials said the balloon's intelligence-gathering abilities were "limited," and were similar to what Beijing is likely able to collect through objects such as satellites.

Fleitz said that claim. too. was misleading. "They also lied in that they said, 'Well, look, it doesn't matter because balloons don't gather much information and the Chinese have satellites,'" he explained. "And I told you when we talked about this, that's not true either. Balloons are a very capable intelligence platform. Very valid. The US government uses them."

President Joe Biden was mocked on social media this week after the new intelligence reports surfaced, as critics looped video of his claim he had protected the country. “We were able to protect sensitive sites against collection," the president said back in February.

Fleitz said the president's misstatement was not only a political credibility problem, it signaled to allies and adversaries alike that the United States was willing to be so weak in its response to China's violation of U.S. airspace that it would make up a cover story.

"They're saying things they know are not true. It's all spin. And look, when the President and the White House Press Secretary and Secretary of State repeatedly tell lies about national security, the world's just not going to believe us, they're not going to follow us ... . It just makes the world so much dangerous, because America is not able to lead under this President."

Prominent television journalist Bill O'Reilly said the Biden administration's projection of weakness has continued since the Chinese balloon, only emboldening tyrants like Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping. 

"Russians attacked our drone. What happened there? Biden didn't even say a word about it, not a word," O'Reilly said. "And then The Wall Street Journal reporter is kidnapped by Putin and put in prison. And then 'well, we're going to try to get them out.'

"It should be clear to all Americans, that this country of ours is severely weakened by its leadership, Putin and Xi they don't fear us at all. The president of El Salvador doesn't fear us," he added, noting the president of El Salvador put out a stinging rebuke about America and its commitment to democracy after the indictment of former President Donald Trump this past week.

The criticism also extended to Democratic circles. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., whose state was spied on by the balloon, said the administration needed to be punished for its inaction and dishonesty.

"We knew all along that China's invasion of our airspace was no accident. There's nothing more important than keeping America safe, and I'll keep holding the Biden Administration accountable to ensure Montanans' freedom and privacy are protected," he tweeted.

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