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‘Unacceptable,’ says the White House, as lawmakers and the public demand answers about objects shot from the sky.

There are numerous theories but few answers after the United States downed three unidentified airborne objects in three days over the weekend.

Now, the White House, which has been chastised for a lack of transparency regarding the incursions, must deal with frustrated lawmakers and a befuddled public as a result of the Biden administration’s failure to launch a coherent communications strategy regarding the shootdowns.

With fighter jets shooting down unknown objects over US territory, the White House has revealed little about what is going on and whether the country is under attack. Are the objects harmless weather balloons or spy craft sent by foreign powers with the intent to harm Americans? President Joe Biden has not commented. In the absence of hard facts, uninformed speculation, including whether the objects are visiting space aliens, is filling the information void.

“The administration has yet to provide any meaningful information about what was shot down. “What the hell is going on?” Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., stated on the Senate floor on Monday.

“President Biden owes the American people some answers,” McConnell said, questioning whether the objects were benign or “something more nefarious that we’ve somehow been missing all this time.”

An Air Force general refused to even rule out such a far-fetched possibility at one point, though White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre clarified the question on Monday.

“There is no evidence of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns,” she said.

At Monday’s White House briefing, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby stated that the three most recent objects posed no threat to people on the ground, did not send any communication signals, and possessed no manoeuvrability or propulsion capabilities.

However, the objects flew at altitudes that could “pose a threat to civilian commercial air traffic,” prompting Biden to give the order to shoot them down.

“Efforts are active right now at all sites to find what is left of those objects so that we can better understand and communicate with the American people what they are,” Kirby told reporters, emphasising the difficulty of recovering the objects from rural terrain in Alaska and Canada, as well as the bottom of Lake Huron.

On a visit to Brussels on Monday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters that no debris from the three most recent incidents had been recovered.

Kirby also announced the formation of a new interagency team tasked with researching the objects and developing future policy. He did not provide specifics about the objects themselves, as confusion and frustration about the US military’s firing of multiple missiles in US and Canadian airspace over the weekend persist.

After a fourth object was shot down by a U.S. military pilot on Sunday afternoon, the White House did not appear to have a clear message about what was shot down, who from the government should communicate about it, why there appear to be more unidentified objects, who they might belong to, what threat they pose, or whether decision-making about shooting down such items has changed.

Kirby confirmed Monday what two US defence officials previously told NBC News: the military is using a broader range of radar data to monitor North American airspace since the Chinese spy balloon was discovered, and it is looking deeper at more objects that it may have filtered out previously.

Officials spoke out. Monday arrived after a weekend filled with reports of additional objects being shot down in North American airspace but little information.

After an unidentified object was shot down off the coast of northeastern Alaska on Friday, Biden responded to a media question with a single word: “Success.” Although it was a US F-22 that destroyed the object, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the incident public on Saturday.

Jean-Pierre said Sunday morning that the public should understand that the administration intends to “detect and defend our airspace,” but she provided little information about new standards or processes for doing so, and she did not identify the objects.

When the fourth object was shot down over Lake Huron hours before the Super Bowl began on Sunday, the lack of information became even more apparent. Despite inquiries, White House communications remained largely silent, allowing conspiracy theories to flourish.

“In times of uncertainty, leaders must be as transparent with the public as possible,” said Larry Hogan, a Republican former governor of Maryland. “After shooting down three airborne objects, President Biden must speak directly to the American people about what we know and what we don’t.”

National security officials have refused to identify the three most recent objects as balloons, or to identify their owners or functions, whether weather monitoring or foreign actor surveillance. However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, stated on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that intelligence officials believe the second and third items were also balloons.

On Monday, a Canadian official appeared to confirm that assessment, at least in relation to the object shot down on Sunday.

Maj.-Gen. Paul Prévost, the director of staff for the Strategic Joint Staff, which provides military analysis to the Canadian Armed Forces, described the object as a “suspected balloon,” and said locating the objects would provide more information about what they are and how they moved.

Many questions directed to the White House have been redirected to the Defense Department, as the Biden administration is wary of inconvenient or untimely developments that could detract from the larger message that the country is making steady progress under a seasoned president. When it came to the classified documents discovered in Biden’s home and private office, the White House followed a similar script. Only after receiving news reports that documents had been discovered did the White House admit that Biden had kept classified material that should have been turned over to federal archivists.

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In an interview, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that Biden’s administration should be over-communicating about the shootdowns, especially because a lack of information can allow disinformation and misinformation to spread.

“They’re the ones who have to drive the narrative on this, and I don’t think it’s helpful to have different parts of the government apparatus knowing different levels of things and publicly reporting that,” he said. “It hurts their case that they have the information and are communicating it to the public.”

Meanwhile, the White House is facing criticism from both sides of the aisle as lawmakers try to figure out what happened.

“What’s happened in the last two weeks or so, 10 days, has been nothing short of craziness,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, just hours before the fourth object was shot down over Lake Huron.

Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, agreed in a tweet Sunday, calling the White House’s “lack of communication” “unacceptable.” The public is forced to rely on “leaks, speculation, and, worst of all, disinformation from foreign governments” in the face of White House reluctance.

In an interview with NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., expressed his own concerns about the Biden White House’s lack of transparency.

While it may be difficult to get immediate answers because some of the objects were shot down in remote areas that required arduous retrieval missions, Himes said it is troubling to see “massive speculation about alien invasions and additional Chinese or Russian action” bubbling up in the information vacuum.

“Perhaps it’s because I work in politics and spend a lot of time talking to people in grocery stores and town hall meetings,” he explained. “You know, in the absence of information, people will fill the void with anxiety and other things. So I wish the administration would be a little more prompt in informing us of everything they do know.”

It’s also unclear whether there are more objects in the air than previously thought or whether entirely new items are entering US airspace. Has this information altered the requirements for photographing objects from American skies? This is also unknown.

In his State of the Union address last week, Biden made only a passing reference to the Chinese spy balloon, a two-sentence aside that left unanswered a slew of questions about escalating US-Chinese tensions.

“The problem is it [the spy balloon] is illustrative of what China is doing,” said John Bolton, a former national security adviser in the Trump administration. It serves as a wake-up call. We have a major issue with China. We are not the source of the problem; they are.

“I believe the mistake here is in failing to adequately characterise what happens when an unknown vehicle approaches American territory,” Bolton added. “You should assume it’s potentially dangerous if it’s unidentified and doesn’t respond to communications.”

What is certain is that, with missiles firing over the United States and Canada, the significance of the situation is difficult to dismiss.

Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and the United States North Command, stated that “this is the first time that NORAD or the United States Northern Command has taken kinetic action against an airborne object within United States or American airspace.”

Officials have attempted to dispel the notion that the objects posed a serious threat to Americans. The most recent object shot down over Lake Huron was not a military threat, but according to a Pentagon statement, it may have had surveillance capabilities.

According to a defence official, the only thing that was stressed about the three unidentified objects was that there was “no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns.”

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