WASHINGTON (AP) — According to the White House, the US intelligence community believes the three most recent unidentified objects shot down over North America were used for commercial or benign purposes.
According to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, the assessment is based on what the US knows from images of the three objects, but he cautioned that it is preliminary because no debris from any of them has been recovered.
“One thing we have to consider, and we believe the intelligence community is considering as an explanation,” Kirby said.
This month, the United States has shot down four objects, beginning with a suspected Chinese spy balloon on February 4. Three more unidentified flying objects have been shot down over North America since then: one on Friday over Alaska, one on Saturday over Canada, and one on Sunday over Lake Huron.
According to preliminary findings, there is no evidence that the three most recent objects were part of the Chinese government’s spying programme or intelligence gathering against the United States, Kirby said Tuesday.
He went on to say: “I’d like to point out that we haven’t found the debris yet. We’re still doing our best with the observations made by the pilots and the flight profile data that we’ve attempted to collect.”
At the White House press briefing on Monday, Kirby acknowledged that “a variety of entities — including countries, companies, research and academic organisations — operate objects at these altitudes for non-nefarious purposes, including scientific research.”
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed Tuesday in Brussels with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that no debris from any of the objects shot down in the last week has been recovered. Milley also revealed that when the object shot down over Lake Huron on Sunday was targeted, the first United States missile missed. The first missile aimed at the object over Lake Huron missed, according to Fox News.
Milley stated that the missile that missed the fourth object “landed harmlessly in the water of Lake Huron,” and that the US military tracked it as it descended. He emphasised that officials made certain that there was no commercial or civilian aviation traffic in the airspace.
Because of the rocky terrain and other difficult conditions, Milley stated that no debris from those three objects has been recovered.
“Two, three, and four are still missing. They are in treacherous terrain “Milley stated. “The second one is off the coast of Alaska, in some extremely difficult terrain in the Arctic Circle, with temperatures in the minus 40s. The second is in the Canadian Rockies and Yukon — very difficult to recover — and the third is in Lake Huron, probably at a couple hundred feet depth, so we’ll get them eventually, but it’ll take some time.”
Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill, senior officials from the Defense Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence briefed all senators on the objects.
Following the briefing, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., told reporters that the objects “pose no threat to civilian or other population entities.”
He praised the administration’s briefing but suggested that the incidents had revealed a “gap,” in that there is no formal process for balloons used for educational, commercial, or other purposes to be flagged to the FAA or other federal entities. “There isn’t as formal [a] process as there probably should be,” he said.
Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the panel’s ranking member, believes that 99% of the information senators were briefed on could be shared with the public.
Rubio said the United States has had “hundreds and hundreds” of cases of unidentified flying objects over the years, referring to a January report from the director of national intelligence detailing more than 500 sightings of “unidentified aerial phenomena” since 2021. “The question now has to be, why are they forming a new task force?” he wondered.
Rubio urged the Biden administration to share information about the latest objects with scientists investigating the phenomenon. “That’s the only way you’ll get answers about what it is, who it belongs to, and what it’s doing here. I imagine that some of these will have very simple explanations, while others will be more complicated.”
Kirby stated on Tuesday that by the end of the week, the interagency team that President Joe Biden directed his national security team to form on Monday will have established parameters for how the United States will deal with such objects in the future.
Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., urged Biden to deliver a national address “today,” noting that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “gave an explanation to the people of Canada over the weekend.”
“As is customary, we had another classified briefing in which we learned nothing that I didn’t already know as a member of the Intelligence Committee, the Armed Services Committee, or that one couldn’t learn by reading your newspapers and watching your news channels,” Cotton told reporters. “That is why, once again, I want to emphasise, President Biden owes the American people an explanation.”
The White House’s explanations are “contradictory,” Cotton added. “On the one hand, the administration claims that it does not yet know what the last three objects are and does not want to characterise them until they are recovered. On the other hand, it wasn’t a danger “He stated. “Neither of those statements can be true.”
Senator Bill Cassidy, R-La., declined to answer specific questions about what senators were told, but stated that he “felt adequately briefed.”
“It was very comprehensive and very detailed,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-RI. I believe we will have to wait until the debris has been thoroughly examined. That gives us a lot more questions to ask, and they’ll know a lot more about who was involved.”