FBI says China spy balloon analysis effort is in early stages

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The FBI has only recovered very limited physical evidence from a suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down into the ocean on Saturday, and it has not yet been able to get enough information to assess its capabilities, senior bureau officials familiar with the operation said on Thursday.

“It’s very early for us in this process, and the evidence that has been recovered and brought to the FBI is extremely limited,” one of the officials told reporters in a briefing about its role in processing the wreckage of the balloon.


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Officials said the FBI still did not have access to the majority of the balloon’s “payload” where most of the onboard electronics were likely carried.

The FBI said much of the evidence remains underwater, and that it has begun decontaminating some of its remains by removing salt and seawater.

“We have not identified any sort of any energetic or offensive material,” one of the FBI officials said, when asked whether any explosives or other harmful components had been identified from the balloon.

Earlier the State Department said the United States is exploring taking action against entities connected to the Chinese military that supported the incursion by the balloon into US airspace, and that it was confident its manufacturer has a “direct relationship” with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The FBI officials said they did not yet have information on where some of the balloon components were manufactured, but that such evidence when recovered could be used for intelligence purposes or possible criminal charges.

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