National Security

Former Trump adviser Bolton to receive briefing on previous spy balloons

John Bolton
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Former National security adviser John Bolton gestures while speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, Sept. 30, 2019.

Former Trump White House national security adviser John Bolton will be briefed Wednesday by Biden administration officials about Chinese surveillance balloon incursions that happened during the Trump administration, his spokesperson confirmed to The Hill on Monday.

Bolton is expected to issue a statement after the briefing. He is the first Trump official to publicly confirm they are receiving a briefing on the matter of Chinese spy balloons since it was revealed earlier this month that there were at least three such objects that entered U.S. airspace during the last administration.

Appearing on NBC earlier Monday, Bolton said he has “even more questions now than when they first got in touch with me.”

A senior Pentagon official told reporters last week that Chinese government surveillance balloons hovered over the continental U.S. “at least three times” during the Trump administration and one additional time at the beginning of the Biden administration. 

Those three incursions were for shorter periods of time than the balloon that caused a major international incident earlier this month after it was spotted over Montana before floating across parts of the country and ultimately being shot down near the South Carolina coast. 

Bolton and other top Trump officials all were adamant that they were never informed of any spy balloons that entered U.S. airspace during their time in office.

Biden administration officials, who offered to brief the Trump ones on those incursions, have since explained that the country’s defense radar systems have been improved to be able to better detect when objects like the spy balloon enter U.S. airspace.

“When President Biden came into office, he directed the U.S. Intelligence Community to do a broad assessment of Chinese intelligence capabilities and to ensure that we were working to detect and to protect against them,” John Kirby, a White House spokesperson on national security issues, said Monday.

In addition to the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down near South Carolina, the U.S. military shot down three separate unidentified objects over the weekend. One was in Alaskan airspace, one was in Canada and the other was over Lake Huron. Officials are still working to learn more about the origin and purpose of those objects.

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