AP / Reuters
- Former CIA Director John Brennan said it’d be “impulsive” to shoot down the suspected Chinese spy balloon.
- Republicans, including Donald Trump, have called for Biden to take out the balloon.
- Brennan told NBC News that China may have sent the balloon to test the US’ response.
Former CIA director John Brennan said it would be “impulsive” to shoot down China’s surveillance balloon that’s hovering over the US — despite demands from Republicans for Biden to take out the floating device.
While speaking to Chuck Todd on NBC News on Friday, Brennan — who served as spy chief under Presidents Obama and Trump — told the “Meet the Press Now” host that he thinks officials have been taking appropriate actions thus far.
“I do think it’s been prudent so far for the administration to be closely monitoring this, to acknowledge it, to confront China directly, to cancel Secretary Blinken’s trip, but also not to take the rather impulsive action in terms of shooting it down,” Brennan said. “I think what they’re trying to do is make sure China understands this is unacceptable.”
A former Navy pilot previously told Insider’s Natalie Musumeci that shooting down such a balloon would be no easy task.
China admitted on Friday that it owns the balloon that was hovering over the country, but claimed it was a wayward “civilian airship” used for “mainly meteorological” purposes, Insider previously reported.
The US defense department said it was a spy balloon, possibly flying over sensitive US sites to collect information.
“This balloon is now hovering 60,000 feet above US territory. I’m sure it has visual observation capability as well as technical collection capability,” Brennan said Friday. “Although the Chinese have pretty extensive satellite coverage of the United States, it’s not 24/7 on every inch of US territory. So I guess the question is whether or not there is going to be some type of additional intelligence that they can glean as a result of having this balloon.”
The balloon could also have been sent as a way for China to test the American reaction, particularly from the Biden administration, Brennan said.
“It also could be that there’s no intelligence value to this. That they’re trying to see what the US reaction is going to be and to see whether or not the way we respond to it provides them with some type of framework,” Brennan suggested.
The former CIA director also questioned whether Chinese President Xi Jinping was “personally aware of this balloon flight.”
“I would think that the Chinese military would have raised this with him if it was an intentional flight pattern,” Brennan said.
As of Saturday afternoon, the balloon had been spotted soaring over North Carolina as it drifted east on air currents.