Chris Lange, FISM News
White House National Security Spokesman John Kirby on Monday defended the Biden administration’s decision to shoot down three unidentified objects detected in U.S. airspace over the weekend as lawmakers expressed increasing frustration over a lack of information coming from the White House.
U.S. officials claim they have so far been unable to identify what the objects were or who launched them.
Kirby said that the three unmanned objects, including one shot down Sunday over Lake Huron, showed no signs of communication, “maneuvering, or … any propulsion capabilities” but said that the decision to shoot them down was necessary because they were traveling at such a low altitude as to pose a risk to civilian commercial air traffic.
“These were decisions based purely and simply on what was in the best interests of the American people,” Kirby said, adding that officials “acted out of an abundance of caution to protect our security, our interests, and flight safety.”
“We don’t know if [the objects] were actually collecting intelligence but because of the route that they took, out of an abundance of caution, we want to make sure that we have the ability to examine what these things are,” Kirby said. U.S. officials confirmed last week that a balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina on February 4 originated from China and was fitted with “multiple antennas” capable of collecting highly sensitive signals intelligence.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters on Monday that, although “authorities don’t yet know” exactly what objects they shot down, they “are not a threat.”
“They do not present a military threat to anyone on the ground. They do, however, present a risk to civil aviation and potentially an intelligence collection threat,” he said, adding, “And we’ll get to the bottom of it.”
Kirby told reporters at the White House that debris recovery is a priority so that officials can “get a better sense of what these objects are,” and that recovery efforts had begun in Alaska and Michigan in addition to those still underway in South Carolina, albeit with challenges.
The objects shot down over Alaska and Canada are in “remote and wintry terrain, making the salvage operations difficult,” and the one downed over Lake Huron has not been recovered, which Kirby attributed to the likelihood that it “is probably in very deep water.”
The rapid succession of U.S. airspace incursions — including reports of additional unidentified flying objects dating back to 2019 that had, until recently, gone undetected — has sparked curiosity around the world and left U.S. lawmakers scratching their heads, with more than a few expressing frustration over the lack of information coming from the White House. Curiouser still is the fact that the four objects shot down this month varied in size, shape, and maneuverability.
Kirby told reporters that the administration has been “consulting with allies and partners on the challenge of unidentified aerial phenomenon and how we can all work together to deal with that challenge,” adding that U.S. officials “will continue to brief members of Congress and relevant state leadership on what we are doing and what we learn,” adding: “The President has made this a very top priority.”
LAWMAKERS QUESTION BIDEN’S ACTIONS, SILENCE ON INCURSIONS
A classified briefing of U.S. Senators scheduled for today comes amid sharp criticism that President Biden has been missing in action, in terms of his silence on the incursions and failure to address the American public at a time of heightened concern and anxiety.
“After allowing a Chinese spy balloon to fly across America when we could’ve downed it off the Aleutian Islands, President Biden has now downed three ‘objects’ despite claiming last week that would’ve posed unacceptable risks to public safety,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said in a press release issued by his office Monday.
“The president owes the American people an explanation, direct and on camera, of what we know about these ‘objects’ and what steps he’s taking to protect America’s sovereign airspace,” Cotton continued, adding “[Canadian Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau did that, so surely Joe Biden can.”
“No commander-in-chief should hide behind press secretaries and anonymous sources in a time of crisis,” he added.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) echoed the remarks on the Senate floor Monday, saying that the President “owes the American people some answers.”
“The administration has still not been able to divulge any meaningful information about what was shot down,” McConnell said, according to a report by The Washington Times.
“What is going on?” he continued. “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?”
BIDEN ORDERS CREATION OF INTERAGENCY TEAM THAT ALREADY EXISTS
During Monday’s briefing, Kirby told reporters that President Biden had issued an order to U.S. officials to create an interagency team to investigate “unidentified aerial phenomena.”
“The president, through his national security adviser, has today directed an interagency team to study the broader policy implications for detection, analysis, and disposition of unidentified aerial objects that pose either safety or security risks,” Kirby said. “Every element of the government will redouble their efforts to understand and mitigate these events.”
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) questioned why the Biden Administration would create an agency he already helped establish in 2021.
“Why is the White House creating a new ‘interagency team’ to monitor, investigate & report on unidentified aerial objects when we already have @DoD_AARO which we helped create over two years ago?” Rubio asked on Twitter, referring to the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office that Department of Defense officials announced last year. The AARO partners with other U.S. federal departments and agencies to detect, identify and attribute objects of interest, including unidentified objects in U.S. airspace and waters, according to a Daily Wire report.