Cassidy: US needs to respond decisively to threats

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2023

By Emily Burleigh

American Press

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, weighed in on the controversy surrounding Chinese spy balloons and national security on Tuesday.

On Feb. 2, an object, which was identified as a Chinese high-altitude balloon, was tracked in U.S. airspace. The next day, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the balloon was a civilian airship used for “mainly meteorological” research purposes and that the object’s entry into U.S. airspace was unintended.

After recovery of the balloon, U.S. officials found this to be untrue. On Feb. 7, the Washington Post reported that U.S. intelligence linked the balloon to a “vast surveillance program run by the People’s Liberation Army.”

This incident was followed by a string of similar takedowns. Over the weekend, three unidentified aerial objects in North American airspace — specifically over Alaska, northern Canada and Lake Huron — were shot down by the U.S. military. These takedowns occurred not long after the U.S. shot down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon.

“Clearly, one was the Chinese Communist Party probing us, and that is something they are doing in a variety of ways,” Cassidy said.

He acknowledged the concerns of many Louisiana residents, who believed we should “just shoot it down.”

“I agree, we probably should have intercepted it before we did, and we need to be responding quickly and decisively to any threat to our airspace.”

He said the object should have never entered U.S. airspace, and that preventative measures are vital. “We have to go beyond being reactive to the Chinese Communist Party. We have to be proactive,” he explained. “We have to create a world in which the CCP is forced to follow the rules of the world, as opposed to setting the rules to which we respond.”

He disagrees with Biden’s handling of the situation, referencing a “slap on the wrist” in response to the object and stating the U.S. has to be “tougher.”

“We can’t allow President Biden to create a crisis in our skies in the same way he has created, or allowed, a crisis on our southern border.”

These incidents have resulted in a heightened focus on U.S. airspace security. According to CNN, Biden ordered a government-wide effort Monday to investigate.

This morning, senators received a classified briefing regarding the recent takedowns. “I’m impressed with the briefings they are giving us. I have confidence in what the Air Force is doing, but I still ask why did President Biden allow the first one to fly so long.”

The classified briefing discussed the three objects that were shot down over the weekend, Cassidy said.

“For these other objects, it has not yet been determined what the origin of them is,” he said.

While the three objects shot down over the weekend have yet to be recovered, Cassidy said they “seem to have floated like balloons” based on their speed and altitude.

Additionally, he acknowledged that various entities do dispatch balloons, such as the Chinese balloon shot down at the beginning of the month, to conduct research.

Cassidy said since the first takedown, the frequency of objects shot down is due to a heightened focus on airspace security. “Having become aware of these objects floating in space, those that are to defend us have moved their satellite images around everything else to begin to catch them,” he said. “We have filled in a gap which will protect our airspace by learning how to better pick up these objects.”

Cassidy said the U.S. military is able to examine previous imaging from satellites and radars, and has been conducting research by looking at “old data with new eyes.”

“They now see that these balloons have at various times come across a portion of the United States… and have gone across other countries as well,” he said. “They are seeing traces.”