The Chinese surveillance balloon that traversed a large portion of the continental United States and was downed by an F-22 fighter jet in the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday was reportedly equipped with antennas that were "likely capable of collecting" American communications.
The Wall Street Journal reports that on Thursday, a senior State Department official said the balloon was fitted with large solar panels that could power "an array of intelligence-collection sensors" and added that "the manufacturer of the balloon has a direct relationship with the Chinese military."
The official said that the balloon was "likely capable of collecting and geo-locating" American communications, according to the Daily Mail.
Chinese officials originally said the balloon was a civilian weather vessel that accidentally entered US airspace after it had drifted from its charted course.
After the US shot down the balloon, China’s Foreign Ministry said, "The Chinese side has clearly asked the US side to properly handle the matter in a calm, professional and restrained manner. Under such circumstances, the US use of force is a clear overreaction and a serious violation of international practice."
According to the Wall Street Journal, "Beijing has used balloon technology over more than 40 countries across five continents."
As the balloon traveled across the United States, the official said that U-2 high-altitude aircraft were used to gather information on it.
The latest details are also the first confirmation of the role that U-2s, which have been in service since 1956, played in monitoring the balloon.
The commander of the US Northern Command, General Glen VanHerck, said that technically the US military lacks the authority to gather domestic intelligence but, "specific authorities were granted to collect intelligence against the balloon specifically, and we utilized specific capabilities to do that."
Efforts to collect and investigate the debris are also underway.
The official told the outlet that in response to the balloon, "the Biden administration is preparing to take action against China’s surveillance program."
One measure the administration may take is adding six Chinese companies, all with direct ties to the CCP to the Commerce Department’s entities list, which would make it harder for them to do business with US companies.
On Thursday, Fox News reported lawmakers received a classified briefing and were told the debris revealed the balloon apparatus "had Western-made parts" and "had English writing on it." The parts reportedly came from "an approved vendor of the PLA."
Lawmakers did not reveal the name of the vendor.
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