Wait, what!?

Ballooning Evidence

As BalloonGate — sorry, DeflateGate was taken — continues to unfold explosively, it's now emerging that this is far from the first time a Chinese balloon has flown over American airspace.

As CNN reports, an intelligence official says that at least three other suspected "Chinese spy balloons" flew over the continental US while Donald Trump was still in office — but they weren't discovered until Joe Biden took office.

That unnamed intelligence source added, somewhat strangely, that the Biden administration is prepared to share information about the alleged balloon-ish incursions with Trump officials because, as Politico and other outlets have noted, those officials say they were never briefed about them.

Trump, on his end, took to his Truth Social platform to say that the reports about Chinese balloons flying over the US during his administration were "fake disinformation." Wait a second, was that a double negative? We may never know.

Why Tho?

Amid all the hubbub about the giant, now-shot-down balloon that may or may not have been intended for espionage, the actual technology in question has gone relatively unexamined.

In an explainer for The Conversation, University of Colorado Boulder aerospace expert Iain Boyd dove into the type of large, camera and imaging-equipped balloons like the one shot down off the coast of South Carolina over the weekend. While "satellites are the preferred method of spying from overhead," he wrote, these kinds of alleged espionage craft do have their advantages.

"These balloons are much, much closer to the ground than any of the satellites, so they can see even more clearly," he wrote. "And then, of course, balloons are moving, but they’re moving relatively slowly, so they also have a degree of persistence."

That said, Boyd wrote that "spying is not usually done these days with balloons because they are a relatively easy target and are not completely controllable" — a fact evidenced by how the one at the heart of BalloonGate was literally taken down with freakin' missiles.

If you're wondering why China would choose to fly a large, sluggish craft over its new Cold War opponent's country, you're not alone — but according to the Pentagon, that's what happened.

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