U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, is demanding answers after the downing of a Chinese spy balloon.
The massive blimp was reported above Alaska on Jan. 28 before reaching the contiguous United States on Jan. 31, according to Reuters. On Wednesday, it traveled over Montana – notably home to Malmstrom Air Force Base – before making its way to the East Coast on Saturday. That’s when President Joe Biden gave the go-ahead to shoot it down.
At 2:39 p.m. ET, the balloon, described by the Pentagon as roughly the size of three school buses, was downed by a single missile off the coast of South Carolina.
Although the Chinese government has claimed that the balloon was a “civilian airship” being used for weather research, Wicker (R-Miss.) is questioning both officials from the communist country as well as the decision-making process of the Biden administration.
“Allowing a spy balloon from the Communist Party of China to travel across the entire continental United States before contesting its presence is a disastrous projection of weakness by the White House. It is clear that standard protocol for defense of U.S. airspace was ignored,” Wicker said in a release, adding, “The White House owes Congress and the American people answers about this failure, and I intend to get those answers without delay.”
In an announcement, Biden said that he urged the military to take down the balloon “as soon as possible” after he learned of the matter on Wednesday. However, due to safety concerns with shooting it down over land, Saturday afternoon was the earliest option.
The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard have since been sent to retrieve the wreckage to try to obtain further answers as to the blimp’s purpose. The duration of the recovery mission is expected to take days.
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