It is time for me to weigh in on the balloon.
For many years attendees at conferences have heard me begin presentations with this phrase:
“Paranoid People Live Longer”.
I say it would benefit us to go a little paranoid on this new event rather than discount it as having no consequence, besides, the memes coming out are absolutely fantastic.
Oh, by the way...today's blog title? Globophobia is an extreme, overwhelming and irrational fear of balloons. This phobia often includes extreme fear, anxiety or panic at the thought, sight, sound, touch and smell of balloons.
As the Great Balloon Threat of 2023 develops, American officials are now weighing in and, as usual, we are beginning to hear more information about rival powers doing this before.
You see, this whole balloon thing happened right after a classified report was revealed to Congress addressing incidents where our “enemies” have been using aerial technology to spy on our country.
The report, which was released last month spoke of recent previous incidents where American adversaries used cutting-edge technology to conduct surveillance; NOT weather information. The report did not name the adversaries but the research implied that the “adversary” was China.
Hmmm. Interesting. While some of the incidents have involved quad-copter drones (big shock there) they also involved balloons. Not rogue balloons swept adrift by wind but actual surveillance balloons…
The Chinese government said on Friday the Chinese balloon discovered this week over the United States was mainly for weather research. However, American officials said they have assessed it to be a collection device, though not one that could gather the kind of sensitive information that advanced Chinese reconnaissance satellites already collect.
None of this is new. For many years countries around the world have used devices and technology to gather intel from other countries and that includes the United States. The difference here (so far) is that when this is done, it is usually addressed immediately once discovered, in other words, the device is normally removed from the equation somehow. This week, the balloon causing all the noise has been allowed to slowly drift across the continental United States unaccosted.
Many countries use aerial spying technology to gather data on rival nations as well as allies and partners, and to look at remote parts of the globe. But the practice can lead to diplomatic crises and greater military tensions when it goes awry.
China spends about $209 billion (1.3 percent of gross domestic product) on its military overall, according to a recent Pentagon report and we are well aware that a majority of this has been invested in technologies with military intelligence applications.
Over the last few years U.S. defense officials have been well aware that China has been conducting surveillance of our military training grounds and exercises as part of an effort to better understand how we operate.
So is this a freak occurrence of a wayward weather balloon or is this a subtle act by China to get a better glimpse into the American military or worse? I really do not know and it seems nobody else does either but as I said, paranoid people live longer. If in doubt, go with your gut and my gut said get it down. Days ago.
This is not a new thing and if we are going to collectively believe that this is a weather balloon then let the Weather Channel cover its journey and lets get back to the border issue, but we might to address that the Pentagon has examined over 366 incidents like this before and 163 were balloons. While the Pentagon has said that only a handful were surveillance balloons, I am not in a better mood knowing it was just a “handful” are you?
In a short internet search I was able to find statements from the Pentagon and other intelligence agencies assuring us that spy balloons are relatively basic collection devices and other balloons have not lingered long over U.S. territory so they have not generated much concern with the Pentagon or intelligence agencies.
Besides, the optics are pretty poor at this point. I think the messaging has been pretty clear this week; we are not worried because you have never lied to us before and we are sorry to hear you lost an expensive balloon. (For real?)
The problem is that in the report, the surveillance incidents involving advanced technology and potentially more troubling, involving behaviors and characteristics that “could not be explained”.
Officials said that further investigation was needed but that the incidents could potentially indicate the “use of technology that was not fully understood or publicly identified”. Of the 171 reports that have not been attributed to balloons, drones or airborne trash, some “appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis.”
I have included a picture of a weather balloon here so you can gain a bit more perspective. Either the United States is WAY behind in weather balloon technology or this is not just a simple weather balloon! The balloon currently meandering its way freely across our country has surveillance equipment in the belly section that is the size of three school buses!
While nothing is clear at this point, paranoid people live longer and if another country has flown (accidently or on purpose) over the United States without permission, we need to remember that the United States has been a worldwide target for almost over two centuries and we need to deploy our resources to end the flight.
UPDATE 08:00 HRS 2-4-23
Pentagon confirms second Chinese ‘surveillance balloon’ seen over Latin America.
According to the Pentagon, it has been assessed as another "Chinese surveillance balloon" but they had "no further information to provide"
UPDATE 14:00 HRS 2-4-23
The U.S. military on Saturday shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon.
The FAA issued a ground stop in parts of North Carolina and South Carolina on Saturday afternoon “to support the Department of Defense in a national security effort.”
Weather balloons. Can't trust 'em.