Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
GOP senators who took part in an intelligence briefing about the three as-yet-unidentified objects shot down over North America last weekend said they exited the room with as much clarity as when they entered.
“We learned nothing that I didn’t already know as a member of the Intelligence Committee and Armed Services Committee or, for that matter, that one could learn from reading your newspapers,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The only new revelation on the nature of the balloons came from National Security Council strategic communications coordinator John Kirby on Tuesday at a press briefing.
In an interview with MSNBC, John Kirby stated that the leading explanation is that the objects are “balloons of a completely benign nature, perhaps commercial or scientific research” in nature. However, he reiterated that he is unable to confirm this because the military has been unable to recover any debris from the objects to analyze.
Shortly thereafter the congressional briefing, Cotton criticized the Biden administration for failing to provide the American people with more answers.
“In times of crisis, the American people should hear from their president,” Cotton said during an appearance on Fox Business. “President Biden needs to address the American people directly and provide answers on what is known about the objects violating American airspace.”
In times of crisis, the American people should hear from their president.
President Biden needs to address the American people directly and provide answers on what is known about the objects violating American airspace. pic.twitter.com/6ssUnQ9nqo
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) February 14, 2023
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who also attended the briefing, was more biting in his remarks both to reporters and on social media.
“They didn’t rule anything out other than they don’t think they are balloons on the order of the Chinese balloon [and] they didn’t think they were aliens,” Hawley told Axios.
There was hope — from legislators, media, and the American public alike — that Tuesday’s briefing would shed much desired light on what the nation’s top intelligence and military officials had learned about the three objects most recently shot out of the air or the nature of the Chinese spy balloon that was destroyed a little over a week ago.
Latest Fox News map showing locations of what are now 4 flying objects that have been shot down: pic.twitter.com/ygA6J8j8Ma
— Victoria Marty (@reportednfled) February 13, 2023
Moreover, questions have lingered about why President Joe Biden allowed the known Chinese-owned balloon to float unabated across the nation and then authorized other objects to be rather quickly done away with.
And there remains the concern over why, if these objects have entered sovereign American or North American airspace dating to 2017, we’ve only just now begun shooting them down.
Such questions remained unanswered as of this writing.
“Joe Biden let a Chinese spy balloon cross the entire U.S. Now he’s shooting down everything that flies,” Hawley tweeted. “Why? Who knows. He apparently doesn’t. Either the Biden Administration is lying to us or they’re totally and completely incompetent. Or both.”
Joe Biden let a Chinese spy balloon cross the entire US. Now he’s shooting down everything that flies. Why? Who knows. He apparently doesn’t.
Either the Biden Administration is lying to us or they’re totally and completely incompetent. Or both. pic.twitter.com/ll3qQSnjav
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) February 15, 2023
The lack of definitive answers has left Democrats as puzzled as Republicans.
Sen. Jon Tester (R-Mont.), who The Hill has reported will oversee a special panel investigating the U.S. response to the Chinese spy balloon, has gone on record criticizing Biden’s decision to not shoot the balloon down while it was still over Montana.
DEMOCRATS REFUSE TO CRITICIZE BIDEN
Even Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been critical of the U.S. response, even if he is loath to append that criticism to an appraisal of the president.
“We still have questions about why they didn’t discover these balloons sooner, these objects sooner,” The Hill quoted Schumer as saying. “Sen. Tester is going to lead our caucus in investigating this. It’s a good question. We need to answer it.”
Schumer later added, “The question that looms and we asked them in the [briefing] is, what happened three years ago when we saw that there were these objects flying over parts of America — Texas, Florida, Guam, I think a piece of Hawaii?”
It is important to note the careful way that Schumer framed his criticism. Only military and intelligence leaders faced the brunt of the rebuke. When it comes to Biden, Schumer was far more complimentary.
“We’re learning more and more about these objects,” Schumer tweeted. “U.S. & Canadian forces are working to recover the objects shot down. What we saw this weekend is the Biden admin will take appropriate action if they see anything that’s a threat to Americans.”
On the briefing the Senate received:
We're learning more and more about these objects
U.S. & Canadian forces are working to recover the objects shot down
What we saw this weekend is the Biden admin will take appropriate action if they see anything that's a threat to Americans
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 14, 2023
Most lawmakers on the left have been equally kind and deferential in their remarks about their presidential ally.
“I think we still need more information,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told Axios. “They don’t want to make any definitive statements until they’ve actually recovered the debris.”
REPUBLICANS WANT ANSWERS
However, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who sympathized with the fact that recovering debris from the downed objects was a challenge, said the time for vagary had passed.
“At a minimum, the director of national intelligence should go in front of the American people and explain what we know, what we don’t know without divulging any classified information,” Just the News quoted Kennedy as saying. “We have unity in confusion.”
This statement was similar to a remark Kennedy made during an appearance on Fox News prior to the briefing, which speaks to just how little the Tuesday meeting did to soothe frayed American nerves.
“If you are confused, you understand the situation perfectly,” Kennedy said. “Ten days ago, we were led to believe that our skies are clear, and now all of a sudden we’ve got spy balloons and unidentified objects raining down on us like confetti.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who of late has made public appearances with Biden in order to call for bipartisan cooperation on various matters, was equally critical.
“President Biden owes the American people some answers,” McConnell said on the Senate Floor. “What are we shooting down and where did they come from? Whether they are hostile or not, is there coherent guidance about when to shoot them down?”
Thus far, the American people, and by the sound of it American lawmakers, know only that the objects existed, were shot down, and were, in the opinion of federal officials, likely “benign” aircraft.