Panetta: Chinese Spy Balloon ‘Gathering Intelligence’ on U.S., I’d ‘Really Be Concerned’ if We Didn’t Intercept It or Shoot It down

On Friday’s broadcast of CNN’s “Situation Room,” former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated that the Chinese spy balloon over the U.S. is “gathering intelligence” and that the U.S. either needs to intercept it or shoot it down if that’s the last alternative and that simply letting the balloon go out to sea is not an option.

Panetta said, “I think the United States has to take control of this balloon. There are two things that are of great concern here: One is that it’s been determined to be a surveillance balloon, which means that it’s gathering intelligence. That’s the purpose of surveillance. So, that’s what the Chinese are using it for. And secondly, it’s maneuverable, which means that the Chinese basically control the direction of that balloon. It’s invaded our airspace. It’s obviously invaded our sovereignty. I think it’s very important for the United States to take control of this balloon, either to intercept it or to shoot it down.”

He added, “I’m saying either intercept it, have the Chinese land it so that we can take control of it, or shoot it down, if that becomes the last alternative.”

Panetta further stated, “I would really be concerned if we didn’t take control of this balloon and simply allowed it to go out to sea.”

Panetta also said that if the United States did the same thing to China, “without question, they’d shoot it down immediately.”

Host Wolf Blitzer then asked, “So, does the U.S. look weak right now by refusing — at least so far — to do so?”

Panetta answered, “I think, ultimately, if the United States takes control of this balloon and does it in a smart way, I think they will have shown a responsible approach to dealing with this. But they’ve got to take control of this balloon. They can’t just simply sit back and let it go out to sea. We need to know what is on this balloon and why they were trying to surveil the United States. We need to know that from an intelligence and from a security point of view.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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