McCarthy tweeted hours after Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a briefing on Thursday that the government detected a high-altitude surveillance balloon over the continental US, writing, "China’s brazen disregard for US sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent. I am requesting a Gang of Eight briefing."
The "Gang of Eight" is made up of 8 congressional leaders, both Democrat and Republican from the House and Senate, who are briefed on classified matters by the White House.
The group includes the House chair and ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, the Senate chair and ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, as well as the majority and minority leaders of the Senate.
Ryder announced Thursday, "The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now. The US government including NORAD continues to track and monitor it closely. The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the US government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information."
During the briefing, while the balloon was hovering over Montana, a senior US defense official said that the government is "confident" that the surveillance balloon came from the People's Republic of China, adding that officials were considering bringing the balloon down with military assets but decided against doing so because of the risks associated, adding that President Joe Biden had been briefed and asked for military options.
According to told Fox News, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held a meeting with senior Department of Defense leadership on Wednesday and decided not to take military action due to "the risk to safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field."
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