CHICAGO (WLS) -- The spy balloon controversy is likely to be one subject in the State of the Union speech. U.S. military and law enforcement now have some of the remnants of the Chinese surveillance balloon, taking an up-close look at what it is and what it was doing over mainland America.
There are also questions heating up about the undercurrent of this balloon incident. Even though it's no longer airborne, questions and criticism are being floated across Capitol Hill about how it was handled by the White House.
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The U.S. Navy released the first photos of the balloon recovery efforts off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The 200-foot tall Chinese balloon was shot down on Saturday. The main payload assembly of the high altitude balloon is believed to be at the bottom of the Atlantic, in an area about 45 feet deep. That payload is described as the size of three buses. U.S. intelligence officials want to examine the hardware so they can determine what the Chinese were after. There is a search grid the size of 15 Soldier Fields now targeted by recovery teams.
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Pentagon sources say United States U2 spy planes were used to photograph the Chinese balloon in flight so intelligence teams could see how the foreign equipment operates, and whether there was a threat to national security. As the intel operation is at full speed, politics also are sky high.
"So, we need Democrats and Republicans to come together. We need the country to come together to condemn China for what it did and have a unified front in dealing with the Chinese Communist Party. I applaud President Biden for his leadership. I applaud that he listened to the military and national security experts," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
"I'm also very interested in the timing of it. Why now, right on the heels of Biden, and just before Secretary Blinken was going out. So, you know, sending it over the continental United States, which they did deliberately. That is very clear, it was incredibly provocative. I mean, it's kind of a middle finger, frankly to our diplomacy," said Republican Rep. Mike Waltz from Florida.
Recovering all of the Chinese balloon is certainly a critical job for Pentagon officials and intelligence experts. There is also a review underway of other Chinese surveillance balloons that were previously seen floating across the U.S. several years ago.